Pediatric Sleep Disorders: How Are They Diagnosed

Posted by Priyanka Prashar on August 8, 2023 in anxiety conflict management training self-care stress

Sleep problems are widespread in childhood and adolescence and are linked to neurocognitive, psychosocial, and carer load increases. Sleep issues can manifest in many different ways in infants, kids, and teenagers, and they frequently have a considerable negative impact on many different elements of daytime functioning. 


While issues with evening settling and frequent overnight awakenings are more common in infancy and early childhood, issues with poor sleep hygiene or circadian rhythm abnormalities are more common in adolescents. 


The onset of specific sleep issues in kids and teenagers can make any comorbid medical conditions, like obesity and asthma, and psychological issues, like depression, anxiety, and substance misuse, even more difficult to manage.


According to recent research, children, and adolescents who have chronic sleep disruption may experience issues with their ability to pay attention, learn new things, and remember things. 


The effectiveness of behavioral treatments for pediatric sleep disorders, particularly in young children (e.g., graded extinction, parent education, good bedtime routines), has been demonstrated. This is especially crucial considering the paucity of information on the use of pharmacological therapies for children’s sleep problems. 


Only a few pertinent illnesses are covered in this study due to the relatively large number of sleep disorders that have been described in the literature. Pediatric sleep specialists may examine the child’s behaviour and psychological issues that may influence sleep. 


Additionally, pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments for several common pediatric sleep disorders as well as therapeutically practical approaches to sleep complaints are addressed. Now, let’s discuss Pediatric Sleep Disorders and how they are diagnosed in detail.

What are sleep disorders?

When your child has problems falling or staying asleep at night, they may have sleep disorders. Sleep disruption can be brought on by obstructions in the airways, low iron levels, neurological conditions, or other factors. If untreated, your child could experience behavioral issues or health issues.


Why sleep is so important?

When kids don’t get enough sleep at night, they feel drained and cranky. At home and school, they could struggle with conduct, learning, and attention. The immune system, blood sugar levels, and growth of a child can all be impacted by inadequate sleep.


Signs and symptoms of sleep disorders

Consult your child’s doctor if any of these symptoms exist in your child. A sleep specialist may be necessary to see your youngster.


  • Having trouble falling asleep
  • waking up a lot
  • choppy, raucous breathing
  • all night long, tossing and turning
  • breathing pauses while sleeping
  • Snorting or gasping while you’re asleep
  • Nightmares
  • screaming in the night
  • sleeping while moving.
  • agitated legs
  • Bedwetting Irritability
  • sleeping through class
  • Overweight
  • Disorder of attention deficit and hyperactivity (ADHD)


How are sleep issues in children diagnosed?

Understanding the child’s sleep patterns, behaviours, and general health is necessary for the diagnosis of Pediatric sleep disorders. Children who have sleep issues may struggle to fall asleep, wake up frequently through the night, have restless sleep, or are overly sleepy during the day. To effectively intervene and enhance the quality of your sleep, you must first determine the underlying reason of these problems. Here is a summary of how Pediatric sleep disorders are diagnosed:


Medical History: Compiling a thorough medical history is the first step in identifying sleep problems. Parents or guardians will be questioned by healthcare professionals regarding the child’s sleeping patterns, nighttime routines, and any sleep-related issues. As various health concerns can affect sleep, they may also ask about the child’s general health, any ailments, and any medications.


Sleep Journal: It may be required for parents to keep a sleep diary for their child. The child’s sleep habits are documented in this diary for a given time period, including bedtime, wake-up time, nightly awakenings, and naps during the day. The child’s sleep journal can help parents understand the child’s sleep-wake cycle and spot any anomalies or patterns.


Sleep Questionnaires: To evaluate sleep-related behaviours and suspected sleep problems in children, there are many standardised sleep questionnaires available. To evaluate the quality of sleep and any specific sleep-related issues, these questionnaires are filled out by parents and occasionally by older children.


Physical examination: To rule out any underlying medical diseases that might be causing sleep problems, a comprehensive physical examination is necessary. Additionally, this examination may reveal anatomical characteristics that could affect sleep, such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids.


Sleep Studies (Polysomnography): In some circumstances, a polysomnographic pediatric sleep study may be advised. This non-invasive test captures a variety of physiological factors related to sleep, including heart rate, breathing rate, eye movements, brain activity, and muscle activity. It aids in the diagnosis of disorders like narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea. Pediatric sleep specialists may examine the child’s behavior and psychological issues that may influence sleep. Children’s sleep patterns may be affected by anxiety, stress, or behavioural issues.


Consultation with experts: To investigate possible underlying reasons, consultations with additional experts including Pediatric neurologists, allergists, or ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) doctors may be sought depending on the child’s unique symptoms and medical history.


Once a Pediatric sleep problem has been correctly identified, suitable therapies can be suggested. These could be behavioural adjustments, changes to bedtime rituals, environmental adaptations, or, in more serious circumstances, medical interventions. To put into practise effective measures that encourage the child’s healthy sleeping patterns, parents and other carers must collaborate closely with medical professionals.


Tips for Improving Your Child’s Sleep


  • Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it every night. Don’t promote sleeping in on weekends either. Wake-up times shouldn’t vary by more than one to one and a half hours.
  • Establish a calming nighttime routine for your child, such as a warm bath or story time.
  • Give children no caffeine-containing meals or beverages fewer than six hours before bedtime.
  • Ensure that the bedroom is dark and has a suitable temperature.
  • Ensure that the noise level within the home is minimal.
  • Avoid feeding kids a lot of food right before bed.
  • Playtime after dinner should be leisurely since too much activity right before bed can keep kids up.
  • When a child is getting ready for bed, there shouldn’t be anything playing on the television, computer, mobile phone, radio, or music player. At least an hour before sleep, the TV and electronic games should be switched off.
  • Children and infants should be put to bed when they seem sleepy but alert (as opposed to dozing off in their arms or in another room). To get your child to sleep, avoid going to bed with them.



 Children frequently experience sleep issues, which are linked to serious daytime deficits. Pediatric sleep issues can impair social, scholastic, and neurobehavioral functioning and can appear as a primary sleep disorder or as a subsequent effect of an underlying medical or mental disease. 


A substantial body of literature has emerged over the past ten years about efficient diagnostic techniques for determining pediatric sleep problems. And the application of evidence-based behavioral treatments combined with logical pharmacotherapy, as necessary. However, it seems that both the general public and medical professionals are just slowly becoming more aware of children’s sleep problems.

Pediatric sleep specialists typically make their diagnoses of sleep problems based on the child’s physical examination and medical history. For some sleep disorders, video recording of the sleep occurrences can be pretty helpful in obtaining a diagnosis. Children may need to undertake a sleep study or polysomnography for specific sleep issues. This is keeping an eye on a kid as they sleep in a sleep lab using a few instruments, such as an EEG to monitor brain activity, breathing belts to measure airflow, and audio and video recorders.

For more information on pediatric sleep issues and effective interventions, and sleep coach, you can contact Katie Kovaleski. She is a renowned Certified Growth Mindset Life Coach and PSYCH-K® facilitator. She is also one of the best pediatric sleep specialists who provide valuable insights and resources on children’s sleep health and well-being.

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