List Of Sleep Disorders

Latest update: November 12, 2019

Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Medical fact-check: Dr Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.

This overview list of sleep disorders includes brief definitions and gives you an idea of which one may be affecting your child, toddler or baby.

This list focuses on primary disorders only. These are the less common, but more serious ones that truly disrupt your child's nights and require dedicated attention.

Parasomnias: night terrors, bedwetting and sleepwalking

These so-called parasomnias in our list of disorders can be quite annoying but are usually not too serious from a medical point of view. They pass without medical intervention in most cases or need only gentle guidance to be corrected.

Night Terrors

Night terrors or sleep terrors, also called confusional arousal, are awakenings from deep sleep, typically in the early night. The child seems wide awake but isn't, typically screams and is restless for a while before going back down. Next day he/she does not remember what happened.

Bedwetting

Technically it takes a long time before bedwetting becomes a real issue. Being dry at night is part of normal development, and it very often happens much later than being dry during the day.

Up to the age of 6-8 years old, it is usually is still normal and nearly always due to physical immaturity.

The main to-do as a parent is to realize that it's fine and normal and above all to help avoid feelings of shame and guilt in the child. It's never their fault and taking a casual approach is by far the most effective to help them. Most kids simply outgrow it, in particular if it's never been made into a big deal.

In some cases, specific solutions going from gentle guidance through medical intervention can be necessary.

Sleepwalking and Sleeptalking

A sleepwalking or sleeptalking child will be 'up' but not really awake. It is a typical thing for school-aged kids, but it can disrupt your toddler's naps and nights too.

The main thing is to be attentive to this as a parent and to make sure your sleepwalker does not get injured during his or her walks.

Pediatrician Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP, also recommends attaching some kind of alarm sound to the bedroom door (this can be a simple toy-bell, as long as it's well out of reach of your child) as well as the front or back door. That's because unfortunately even young toddlers have made their way outside on the street during sleep walking episodes.

Sleep apnea

The most common type of apnea in young children is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS). It is when the upper airways block partially or completely from time to time during the night (or nap).

In infants it is usually Central Sleep Apnea, where a failed brain signal causes a breathing pause.

In either case, the short breathing halts (half) wake up the child. Baby, toddler or older child then does not get enough deep rest.

This is the most common disruptive sleeping disorder kids can have, about 1 to 3 percent could be affected. Removal of tonsils and adenoids in surgery is the common medical treatment.

The problem with it is that it often goes unnoticed. Consequences include growth disturbance and behavioral problems. That's why it is so important to spot apnea as soon as possible. Double-check all sleep disorder symptoms and the specific signs and symptoms to make sure you don't miss it.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is when sleep patterns are seriously disrupted. A narcoleptic person is extremely tired during the day, can be problematic to wake at certain times and can fall asleep suddenly, anywhere.

Luckily this is very rarein kids, definitely in very young ones but it's in the list of sleep disorders for reference and so that you are aware of its existence, and recognize it just in case.