30% of children under the age of five suffer from sleep disorders, a very common problem that affects learning, emotional reactions, and the quality of life of both the child and their family, states Hospiten Roca pediatrician Dr. Xiomara Martin.
She adds that it is therefore necessary to carry out individual evaluation of the quality of the child's sleep under controlled conditions to determine the causes of any problems and draw up an appropriate treatment plan, as well as to rule out other pathologies that may be associated with any disorders detected.
Specialist Dr. Xiomara Martin explains that the biological clock that marks the normal sleep-awake pattern in humans is not synchronized with the peripheral clock until 6-8 months of age, so we cannot speak of child insomnia until after that age.
However, she explains that, from then on, disorders may appear through insomnia, difficulties falling asleep or restless legs syndrome.
In the case of insomnia, the child may have waking episodes of more than 60 minutes throughout the night, while on other occasions, he/she may wake up more than 3 times during the night or cannot fall asleep alone after these waking episodes.
On other occasions, the disorders focus on a delay in the child entering the sleep phase, leading to the child falling asleep later than usual, without wakening during the night.
However, this pattern is associated with the child waking up later, which leading to problems in children of school age, who must get up early.
Dr. Martin explains that another of the symptoms is restless legs syndrome, which is an unpleasant sensation in the legs at the end of the day alleviated through movement, causing the child to need to move his/her legs when sitting or lying down and prevents him/her from falling asleep.
On the other hand, child insomnia may be caused by other pathologies, such as gastroesophageal reflux, sleep apnea, celiac disease or flare-ups of atopic dermatitis.
The pediatrician stresses the importance of consulting a specialist to determine the causes of sleep disorders through the information that parents can provide and a complete physical examination of the child.
She adds that, in addition, Hospiten Roca uses simple tools to evaluate of sleep disorders, like a sleep diary and questionnaires, which allow doctors to classify the disorder and determine treatment.
The doctor insists that therapy is mainly behavioral and individualized, based on the information provided by the sleep diary and the questionnaires adapted to the age of the child.
Correcting behavioral, eating or sleeping habits that may influence bedtime negatively is recommended.
The doctor adds that, in some cases, it may be necessary to combine behavior correction with the use of drugs, such as melatonin, known as the sleep-inducing hormone, although she insists that it should never be the first line of treatment. Depending on the type of sleep disorder, melatonin can be administered at different times of the day, although it should not be used more than four weeks at a time.
With 50 years of experience, Hospiten has twenty private medical-hospital centers in Spain, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica and Panama, attending more than 1,700,000 patients from all over the world each year, and employs a staff of more than 5,000 people.