Sleep Disorders (Pediatric)

What are pediatric sleep disorders?

Sleep patterns shift as children grow older and have periods of difficulty falling or staying asleep through the night. Such problems often resolve on their own, yet some sleep disorders are linked to neurological or behavioral problems and require treatment.

What are the symptoms of pediatric sleep disorders?

Symptoms of childhood sleep disorders are:

  • insomnia, an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • narcolepsy or continual drowsiness
  • restless legs syndrome (RLS), a jerking of the lower limbs while sleeping
  • sleep apnea, where breathing stops and starts through the night
  • sleep deprivation
  • sleepwalking
  • snoring

Sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and behavioral sleep issues can seriously affect the mood, memory, academic performance, and general health of children.

Poor sleep reduces the ability to concentrate, inhibits the immune system, and may even make children more prone to accidents.

How are pediatric sleep disorders diagnosed?

Our neurologists work with a multidisciplinary team at the Sleep Disorders Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital to evaluate children. Our team has ENT doctors, obesity experts, bariatric surgeons, developmental specialists, craniofacial surgeons, neurosurgeons, neuromuscular experts, and gastroenterologists.

Our experienced doctors perform the full range of sleep studies, including day and nighttime studies, and allow parents to sleep in the same room with their children. Diagnostic tests may include one or more of the following:

  • Polysomnography (overnight sleep study) uses electrodes attached to the head and body of children as they sleep and records brain waves (EEG), respirations, heart rate, movements, and other physiological measurements for analysis. Audio and video recordings are made of children as well.
  • Video EEG monitoring is useful in diagnosing unusual events during sleep, especially seizures. This test uses more electrodes than polysomnography and provides more information about brain activity. Children's movements are also monitored on video.
  • Multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT or "nap test") measures children's level of drowsiness and tendency to fall asleep during the day. This procedure is an important diagnostic tool for narcolepsy. MSLT uses fewer electrodes than polysomnography and consists of four to five "nap opportunities," each two hours apart, and is usually done to follow up on an overnight sleep test.

Our sleep technicians are trained to work well with children and make them feel at ease.

What is the treatment for pediatric sleep disorders?

Once we make a diagnosis, our experts tailor treatment programs to the individual needs of a child. Our approach may include:

  • behavioral recommendations
  • device to prevent sleep apnea
  • medications
  • surgery (such as removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids)