5 sleep problems your toddler may face

More young children are suffering from sleep issues, according to a recent study. SmartParents looks into sleep disorders in kids.

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One night, Angela Lim, 35, roused to the sounds of someone trying to open her front door. Fearing a burglar, she cautiously went to the living room with her husband to investigate. To her relief — and horror — her 4-year-old son Joshua was trying to open the locked door. He had been sleepwalking.

Says Lim, a fitness instructor, “It was the first time Joshua walked out of his room in his sleep. Previously, he would talk or shout in his sleep, and sometimes, he would sit up or climb off his bed to lie on the floor. It is very worrying. With the constant talking and moving around at night, I’m worried about his safety and that he is not getting enough quality sleep.”

The number of young children with sleep problems is climbing. Dr Mahesh Babu Ramamurthy, head & senior consultant, Division of Paediatric Pulmonary and Sleep, National University Hospital, notes that in Singapore, almost 44 per cent of parents of children under age 3 reported that their kids have sleep problems.

Here are sleep issues that your child may face.

1. Insomnia   

This refers to junior’s difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Short-term insomnia is usually caused by factors such as sickness or short-term medication.

Long-term insomnia, which occurs for a month or longer, may be caused by factors such as depression, anxiety, pain and medical problems.

Children who are afraid of the dark, of being alone or have a vivid imagination (monsters!) will have trouble falling asleep.

2. Snoring

Snoring — noisy breathing during sleep — occurs when the flow of air through the mouth and nose is obstructed.

A combination of factors can cause the obstruction — obstructed nasal airways, poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue, bulky throat tissue, large tonsils and adenoids or a long soft palate and/or uvula. Snoring may be harmless but it may also result in poor quality sleep.

Snoring may be harmless but it may also result in poor quality sleep.

3. Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)    

This happens when the tongue, tonsils, or other tissues in the back of the throat block the airway. When a child tries to breathe in, the air cannot flow through.

Children with OSA snore so loud, they can be heard in the neighbouring room. They may even stop breathing — briefly — while they sleep, and gasp before breathing resumes.

Such children face two problems — inadequate sleep from disrupted sleep patterns and possible blood pressure and heart problems in the long-term because their oxygen concentrations may drop during sleep. This could stunt their growth, while their memory and learning behaviour may be affected.

4. Sleeptalking and Sleepwalking   

Fairly common, children usually outgrow these two disorders by adolescence. When a child walks in his sleep, he might fall off the bed, trip on any loose wires, pull down something unstable for support or even walk out of the house.

To prevent falls, don’t let your sleepwalker sleep on a bunk bed, lock doors and windows, remove obstacles in the home and keep dangerous objects out of reach.

5. Bruxism    

The grinding of teeth or the clenching of jaws during sleep. Although quite common among children, most outgrow it. Bruxism often happens during the deep sleep phase or when there’s stress.

These kids may grind because the top and bottom teeth are misaligned or in response to pain, such as from an earache or teething. Bruxism has no ill effects in most cases.