A new study finds that sleep problems such as sleepwalking, being confused when aroused, and sleep terrors or nightmares are more common in children than adults. The sleep disorder problems, collectively termed parasomnias, are conditions that parents should take an active approach in helping their child overcome.

Parents are advised to consult with their child’s pediatrician for an through office evaluation, according to a study published in the February 1st issue of the journal SLEEP.

Study authors advise pediatricians to question the parents regarding what events typically occur, how soon after sleep onset these events are noted, and whether episodes take place during naps as well as at night.

Parents should, in turn, describe in detail the movements and behaviors that are typically seen. In addition, the authors noted, to complement the parents’ descriptions, home videos often prove very useful for identifying and classifying parasomnias.

A detailed history may also be supported through the completion of sleep diaries, in which parents record sleep periods, arousals/awakenings and parasomnia events.

“The sleep history should be accompanied by a comprehensive physical and neurological exam, to look for features that would be associated with an underlying sleep disruptor: for obstructive sleep apnea, features such as adenotonsillar hypertrophy, retrognathia, and mid-face hypoplasia; for periodic lib movements in sleep, features such as peripheral neuropathy or myelopathy,” the authors wrote.

Clinicians should be aware that many pediatric parasomnias are benign, self-limited and may not persist into late childhood or adolescence.

The bottom line, said the authors, is that the parents need to monitor their child’s sleep patterns and, if a problem persists, consult with the child’s pediatrician, who will determine whether a visit to a sleep specialist is necessary.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)