Sleeping Disorders in Children and Adolescents

The recommended hours of sleep in a 24 hour cycle varies with age, but in general young children (3-5 years old) should get 10-13 hours per day including naps, older children (6-12 years old) should get 9-12 hours per night, and teens (13-18 years old) should get 8-10 hours per night. “How much sleep?” explains the recommended sleeping hours per day by age.

Many children and adolescents have difficulty with going to sleep, staying asleep, or both. While brief periods of sleep problems can be a normal part of development, there are times that sleep problems develop into sleep disorders, a more pervasive pattern of abnormal sleep that impacts one’s ability to function. Please see the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Facts for Families page regarding sleep problems for more information.

Many of the problems with sleep in childhood/adolescents are related to poor sleep habits. Changes in behavior and sleep routine in the few hours prior to bedtime, referred to as “sleep hygiene”, including no screens, tablets, phones, computers or TV time two hours before bedtime, no electronics in the bedroom, avoiding any caffeine in the afternoon, and practicing a calming consistent bedtime routine, can have a very beneficial impact on sleep quality.

There are special types of non-medication treatments to help with sleep, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-Insomnia), which can be done both in person with a trained therapist as well as through digital applications or “Apps.”

There are some sleep disorders that are not related to poor sleep habits.

These include sleep walking, sleep terrors, nightmare disorder, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and parasomnias. Diagnosis of these disorders requires seeing a primary care doctor who may order other test of referrals to specialist to aid in diagnosis.