A study conducted in 2009 entitled “Aspects of Sleep Disorders in Children & Adolescents” suggests that the evidence on sleep issues in youth is well established but this information “has been poorly disseminated and, therefore, relatively little is put into practice” by healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, the burden of this rests with the parents who may not even be aware of the extent of their child’s nightly sleep interruptions.
It may be more than behavioral problems that exist when sleep disruptions occur. According to research published in 2010 entitled “Long-Term Sleep Disturbances in Children: A Cause of Neuronal Loss” the authors state that “Sleep loss adversely effects pineal melatonin production which causes disturbance of circadian physiology of cells, organs, neurochemicals, neuroprotective and other metabolic functions. Through various mechanisms sleep loss causes widespread deterioration of neuronal functions, memory and learning, gene expression, neurogenesis and numerous other changes which cause decline in cognition, behavior and health. When these changes are long-standing, excessive cellular stress develops which may result in widespread neuronal loss.”
So what do we do as parents if we suspect our child has a sleep problem? You may want to take a closer look at your child’s patterns of sleep and their daytime behavior. Removing electronic devices like computers and televisions from their bedrooms might be the first step. Establishing nightly routines like reading a book, bathing, and teeth brushing can also help. In some children, melatonin use has been found to be beneficial, particularly when a developmental disability is present. Seek the advice of your child’s pediatrician or other healthcare professional if you suspect your child is having difficulty sleeping. Often, sleep studies are necessary to determine if more extensive issues are present.