A Primer on Pediatric Sleep Disorders (Podcast)

Advice for diagnosing and managing sleep disturbances in children


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Approximately 25% to 30% of infants and children experience sleep disturbances, which can negatively impact a child’s development, behavior and quality of life.

“This is an area where prevention is clearly better than cure,” says sleep disorders specialist Vaishal Shah, MD, Director of Pediatric Sleep Operations in Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center. “The earlier we intervene and the earlier patients and their families work on their sleep, the fewer problems there will be later on.”

In the latest episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Neuro Pathways podcast, Dr. Shah discusses pediatric sleep disorders. He covers:

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  • How much sleep infants, toddlers, school-age children and teenagers should get
  • Which of the six categories of sleep problems are most common in children
  • Symptoms and risk factors for sleep disorders in this setting
  • The diagnostic workup for sleep disturbances
  • Management in this population, including counseling, devices and surgical procedures
  • Resources for providers and parents

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Neuro Pathways episodes at clevelandclinic.org/neuropodcast or wherever you get your podcasts. This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ and ANCC contact hours. After listening to the podcast, you can claim your credit here.

Excerpt from the podcast

Podcast host Glen Stevens, DO, PhD: What are risk factors for sleep disorders at a young age?

Dr. Shah: It depends on the type of disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea, for example, is one of the most common things we see. The No. 1 reason, particularly in younger children, tends to be large adenoids and tonsils in comparison to adults. We also are seeing the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea increasing a lot with obesity and higher BMIs. Other risk factors for that particular condition are craniofacial problems, which are fairly common in younger kids, or a genetic syndrome. For example, up to 80% of children with Down syndrome have some degree of sleep apnea. Those are three broad, common risk factors. We also are seeing more and more orthodontic problems that can cause or add to sleep apnea in kids.

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For insomnia, there may be underlying disorders with a mood or behavioral component. In older children, that may include mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. In younger children, it may be autism spectrum disorder, ADHD or neurodevelopmental delays. Those are the most common risk factors we tend to see for insomnia. Many times, it is behavioral. Additionally, parents’ responses often can add to the problem.

Most of the other sleep disorders tend to happen de novo, without clear underlying risk factors. That’s the case, for example, with narcolepsy, which is not necessarily a risk factor-associated disorder. It may happen to anybody at any time.