What medical conditions affect sleep? If your little one is having sleep challenges, you may wonder if he or she has an underlying medical problem affecting his or her sleep. Before beginning sleep training, I always recommend you speak with your child’s pediatrician. It’s important for parents to recognize what medical conditions can impact sleep so you can advocate for your child if needed.
As a pediatric sleep consultant, I address behavioral sleep issues. Meaning, I can help if the challenges your little one is having with sleep are not caused by a medical problem. Sleep issues in children may show up as frequent nighttime waking, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and refusing to go to or stay in bed. Medical conditions can cause these same behaviors. Today, we’re going to review what type of medical problems can disrupt sleep and finally, when you should talk to your child’s pediatrician.
Children go through significant developmental changes as they grow. These developmental changes and growth naturally cause various challenges when it comes to sleep. For example, around 4 months of age, parents will often bring up that their child is in a “sleep regression.” What this really means is that the child is going through significant developmental changes that are disrupting their sleep. A 4 month old infant may have negative sleep associations, like feeding to sleep. This is often responsible for infants repeatedly waking in middle of the night as they require the same feeding/parental presence to get back to sleep. In toddlers or preschool-age children, the crib to bed transition or ending co-sleeping are common challenges. In older children, refusing to go to bed, stay in bed, or nightmares are challenges parents must navigate.
There are several medical conditions that could be disrupting your child’s sleep. It can be challenging to sort out whether your child’s sleep struggles stem from a medical issue versus an issue that can be addressed with behavioral changes. This is where your knowledge of what to look out for and talking with your child’s pediatrician can make a huge difference. First, we’ll look at the conditions affecting sleep and then, we’ll review what to look for in your child that may indicate one of these underlying conditions.
For each of the following medical conditions affecting sleep, we’ll look at symptoms that indicate a possible problem. All of these conditions can manifest as your child having difficulty sleeping. As such you will often notice your child being tired or sleepy during the day.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Restless Legs Syndrome
Other Mood Disorders
If your child has any of the above symptoms, I highly recommend talking with your child’s pediatrician to see if one of these medical conditions could be affecting your child’s sleep. Addressing these medical conditions is outside the scope of a sleep consultant. Once medical issues are addressed, working with a sleep consultant can be highly effective in improving both your child’s (and your) sleep. I recommend scheduling an office visit specifically to discuss your concerns around your child’s sleep. This can be a lengthy discussion. Scheduling a visit specifically to discuss this topic is more likely to yield a productive conversation.
If you’ve talked with your child’s pediatrician and are still struggling to help your child with sleep, I invite you to reach out to me. I specialize in helping families address refusing to go to bed or stay in bed, frequent nighttime waking, the crib to bed transition, and ending co-sleeping.