This is the first part of a series of interviews with Dr Bharath Reddy where he talks about the importance of sleep particularly in children. In this part, he covers common sleep disorders in children and how to identify them.
Here is the transcript of our interview with Pediatric Sleep Specialist, Dr. K R Bharath Kumar Reddy. Please note that the transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity and is not verbatim.
Why is sleep essential in all humans, particularly children?
All living creatures require sleep. If you think about it, we nearly sleep for one-third of our lives and we know very little on what happens during that time. Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well being throughout one’s life.
- Firstly, sleep is essential for mental health. It helps your brain function normally, improves memory, helps in learning, di-stresses your mind and helps make better decisions. Children who sleep better are shown to be calmer during the day.
- Secondly, for physical health, sleep is shown to maintain the cardiovascular system, reduces the stress hormones, reduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. In children especially, sleep is important for their growth and development.
- Studies also show that sleeping well, improves a child’s immunity and helps fight infection much better.
What is good sleep in children? What are the expected sleep patterns in different age groups of children?
The amount of sleep required varies according to the age of a child.
- A newborn requires around 16 to 18 hours of sleep.
- A pre-school toddler attending montessory may need around 12 hours of sleep including both night and day time sleep.
- By the time, a child goes to school, the number of day time naps decrease significantly, and he/she may require around 10 hours of sleep at night.
- Teenagers are recommended sleep of 9 hours but this never happens.
- Adult requirement is nearly 7 to 8 hours.
But it is important to note, that it is not the quantity or duration of sleep that is important for good health, but the quality of sleep. So we need to always question whether a child is actually sleeping well, even though he/she sleeps for long hours.
When do you start suspecting a sleep problem?
Nearly 25-30% of children are known to suffer from sleep problems as per international data. Symptoms of sleep deprivation in a child is quite different than that in an adult. A child who hasn’t had a good quality sleep at night will present with:
- Excessive sleeping during the day
- Moodiness and irritability
- Temper tantrums
- The tendency to be very emotional
- Over-activity and hyperactive behaviour
- Grogginess when they wake up in the morning
- Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning or difficult to awaken
- Not achieving bladder control at night
- Excessive movement of legs during sleep
What are the common sleep disorders in children?
- Difficulty in initiating sleep
- Sleep walking and talking
- Nightmares and Night Terrors
- Nocturnal enuresis or bed wetting beyond 8 years
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) which is common and a serious condition to treat
Why is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) being given so much importance?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a condition where there is some degree of hindrance to the breathing of a child during sleep. All of us do have obstruction during sleep, which is worsened in children with this condition.
When should parents seek help?
It is important to meet a doctor specialised in Sleep medicine for children to solve any problems that your child has with sleep. Remember poor quality of sleep reflects on the child’s activities, performance and health during the day.