The information on this page will help health professionals understand key aspects of sleep health and sleep medicine in children. It is designed for general practitioners, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and psychologists.
Obstructive sleep apnoea
Snoring is a common childhood problem and may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). OSA affects between 1 and 3% of children and is associated with health problems such as failure to thrive and learning or behavioural problems. Treatment with adenotonsillctomy is effective in most cases.
Behavioural sleep problems
Sleep problems in children are commonly behavioural in origin and include problems getting to sleep and problems waking overnight, or a combination of both. Parents also complain about early morning waking. Sleep problems affect up to 35% of children and are associated with poorer behaviour, learning, social-emotional functioning and quality of life. They are also associated with poorer parent mental health. Sleep problems are more common in children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Approaches to management however, are broadly similar for typically developing and atypically developing children.
Sleep disturbance in children is a common problem but many symptomatic children remain undiagnosed. Primary care physicians and well child professionals such as maternal child health nurses are well placed to diagnose and provide help to parents to manage sleep problems in their child and to advocate for sleep education in the community.