Growing bodies need a good night’s rest.
Pediatric sleep medicine
Appropriate timing, duration and quality of sleep can help kids and teens perform better at school, manage their moods and feel their best. Pediatric sleep medicine specialists work with a multidisciplinary team to identify sleep disorders and help your child get the rest they need.
Why (or when) to see a pediatric sleep specialist
Symptoms of pediatric sleep disorders can look like other conditions diagnosed in children, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and others. If you notice these symptoms, talk to your pediatrician about seeing a pediatric sleep specialist.
Symptoms can include:
- Changes in mood, like anger, depression and behavior issues
- Daytime drowsiness (e.g., nodding off at school or in the car on short drives)
- Trouble paying attention
- Poor performance in school
- Unable to wake up on time
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking often throughout the night
- Poor decision-making
- Risk-taking behavior
Common pediatric sleep disorders
There are more than 70 types of sleep disorders. These are some of the conditions pediatric sleep specialists treat:
- Sleep apnea is when you have changes in breathing throughout the night that interfere with your quality of sleep and your oxygen levels.
- Insomnia’s symptoms include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. That leads to dissatisfying sleep or impaired performance during the day. Different factors can contribute to insomnia, including chronic stress or depression, environmental disturbances or pain.
- Narcolepsy is known for severe excessive daytime sleepiness, causing you to fall asleep at inappropriate times. This is because the body can’t control its sleep-wake cycle. People often begin having symptoms as children or adolescents, but narcolepsy can go unrecognized for a decade. Adults can also develop the condition, but less frequently.
- Sleep-related movement disorders are characterized by repetitive movements that interfere with sleep, such as restless leg syndrome.
- Circadian rhythm disorders develop when your internal body clock is out of sync with natural day and night cycles (called “sleep phase malalignment”). For example, teenagers can have a delayed sleep phase syndrome, where their sleep cycles happen later than expected. Older adults may have advanced sleep phase syndrome — they go to sleep and wake much earlier than expected.
- Parasomnia is a disruptive sleep disorder with wakefulness behavior that happens just before or during sleep. Common non-REM parasomnias (REM stands for “rapid eye movement”) include sleepwalking, sleep talking — or in young children, night terrors. REM parasomnias are less common, such as REM behavior disorder.
Diagnosing a sleep disorder could include interviews with the caregivers and child, assigning and reviewing a sleep diary, having the child wear a sleep monitoring device called actigraphy (at home) and performing a sleep study (at a hospital/sleep lab).
Sleep studies are done at specialized sleep centers where body functions can be monitored while the patient sleeps.
During a sleep study, a doctor or sleep specialist will check for:
- Eye movements
- Heart rate
- Breathing patterns
- Brain waves (wake and sleep patterns)
- Blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels
- Snoring and other noises
- Body movements and sleep positions
Treatments for pediatric sleep disorders
Treatment for pediatric sleep disorders requires a multidisciplinary approach. If you think your child or teen may have a sleep disorder, start by talking to their pediatrician or primary care physician. They can refer you and your child to a sleep medicine specialist.
Treatment is tailored to the child’s needs and can include:
Your sleep specialist may suggest your child see another specialist to further optimize their sleep. These specialists can include:
- Ear, nose and throat (otolaryngology)
- Gastroenterology/weight management
Pediatric sleep care at Geisinger
Whether your child has a simple or complex sleep disorder, we’re dedicated to getting them the treatment they need to sleep better. We offer:
- Care designed for your family, where you live – With locations throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania and virtual telehealth consultations available, our experienced team provides convenient comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored care, backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.
- Accredited sleep centers – Our sleep centers are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- Sleep testing designed with you and your child in mind – Our sleep centers feature comfortable, private bedrooms that help people feel relaxed and at home. They can accommodate the child and a parent or guardian.