Every new parent needs to be aware that their new baby may end up suffering from a baby sleep disorder. Although a few sleep disorders can occur in both babies and adults, it is important to understand that infants and children will display different symptoms. Only recently have health professionals begun diagnosing sleep disorders in infants and children. What is now classified as a sleep disorder used to be considered something that would be outgrown.
Learn More About Baby Sleep Disorders
When assessing the presence of disordered sleeping in infants, it is important to understand baby sleep patterns. Infants don’t sleep like adults, children or even toddlers. Typically, infants will sleep between 15-16 hours a day, divided in small bursts of approximately 30 minutes to 3 hours at a time. This sleeping is equally divided between nighttime and daytime. By the time that an infant is one year old, he will sleep about 14 hours per day, in longer segments and more at night, but will still wake a few times during the night. This is considered normal and, while exhausting for his caregiver, is not a disorder.
Types of Sleep Disorders
There are two general categories of sleep disorders that can affect babies, parasomnias and dyssomnias. Parasomnias disrupt sleep, like night terrors or sleep walking. Typically these disorders don’t occur in children under the age of 18 months. The other type, dyssomnias, cause problems falling asleep, remaining asleep or experiencing restful sleep.
The most common dyssomnia classified disorder is obstructive sleep apnea. While similar in some ways to adult sleep apnea, pediatric apnea manifests itself with different symptoms. Baby sleep problems include continuous snoring, mouth breathing and failure to thrive. The problem is generally caused by enlarged tonsils and can be alleviated by removing them.
One of the more common baby sleep disorders is SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS is characterized when a healthy infant stops breathing while sleeping. If the infant is not encouraged to resume breathing again, death occurs. While the cause is not known yet, there are many hypotheses as to some factors contributing to the risk. It is thought that some genetic and environmental factors can increase the chances of a newborn suffering from SIDS. Infants that are at risk are set up with a monitoring system that alerts the parents when the infant stops breathing.
While the cause is unknown, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk. Most pediatricians recommend that infants be placed on their backs to sleep. Utilizing a baby sleep system that keeps the infant on their back or side will insure the airway is not restricted during sleep. Babies need to sleep on a firm mattress, free from fluffy comforters and stuffed animals. Studies have also shown that SIDS is significantly reduced in breastfed babies.
Baby sleep problems can range from mildly inconvenient to life-threatening. The best way to prevent potential problems is to be aware of any changes in your baby’s sleep patterns. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your health professional. A baby sleep disorder can be a serious problem and needs to be treated as such.