Sleep-Wake Disorders of Childhood

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Abstract

Purpose of Review: Sleep-wake disorders occur in 10% to 28% of children and differ somewhat in pathophysiology and management from sleep-wake disorders in adults. This article discusses the diagnosis and management of key childhood sleep disorders.

Recent Findings: The role of sleep in memory consolidation and in the facilitation of learning has been increasingly recognized, even at the toddler stage. Cataplexy, a key feature of narcolepsy type 1, may be subtle in childhood and characterized by transient muscle weakness isolated to the face. Children with obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome display prominent neurobehavioral symptoms such as daytime inattentiveness and hyperactivity, so it is important to elicit a sleep history when these symptoms are encountered. Systemic iron deficiency occurs in about two-thirds of children with restless legs syndrome and is easily treatable. Parasomnias arising out of non–rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, such as confusional arousals and sleepwalking, may be difficult to distinguish from nocturnal seizures, and, in many cases, video-EEG polysomnography is required to differentiate between causes.

Summary: Clinicians should routinely integrate the assessment of sleep-wake function into their practices of neurology and child neurology because of the opportunity to improve the quality of life of their patients.

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