Sleep Disorder Symptoms in Babies

Sleep disorder symptoms in babies are difficult to detect. First, baby sleep patterns change so much during the first year of life that it's hard to know what's normal. Second, babies can't tell you if they've had a sleepless night.

You might be daydreaming of a baby who sleeps peacefully through the night and find yourself frustrated when it doesn't happen. This could be a sign of a sleep disorder, or it could just be taking your baby a while to get used to sleeping. Here are some things to look for and discuss with your pediatrician if you suspect a sleep disorder.

Baby Sleep Patterns Change
First of all, you need to understand that babies' sleep patterns vary from adult sleep pattern. You cannot judge whether your baby has a sleep disorder by comparing him to how an adult sleeps.

With a few exceptions, all adults get their sleep during the night. Newborns divide their sleep time almost equally between night and day.

It can take up to the first birthday or even beyond for your child to settle into sleeping through the night. Until then, you can expect varied bedtimes, nocturnal wakings and short sleep times. Newborns will frequently need to be fed during the night. Babies and young children have small bladders and may wake up wanting to be changed. These events are normal and will pass in time.


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Sleep Apnea
leep apnea is one of the disorders that can appear in infants. A child with this condition will stop breathing while sleeping and may wake suddenly.

There are two ways for these pauses in breathing to occur. Sometimes the body will slow breathing or stop entirely during sleep. This type of pause is caused by a problem with either the heart or the brain. The second cause is a collapse of soft tissue in the airway that creates a blockage. Snoring may be an indicator of this form of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea most often affects preemies, but it can occur in any child. To check for sleep apnea, you will need to monitor your infant's breathing. If she has a prolonged pause in breathing that lasts longer than 20 seconds or a pattern of repeated pauses in breathing that lasts at least 20 seconds, you should schedule an evaluation by your pediatrician.

Other Sleep Disorders
Infants can also suffer from a class of sleep disorders know as dyssomnias, which include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting a restful sleep. It is most likely that your baby will develop these types of sleep problems while transitioning to independent sleep or while learning to sleep through the night. Typically, they go away once your baby is an independent sleeper.

Occasional dyssomnias are not unusual. They can be caused by stress, changes in diet, excessive consumption of stimulants (sugar, in a young child's case) or too much sleep during the day. While respecting your baby's need for naps is important, spacing out the naps and making sure your baby doesn't nap just before bedtime may help to control symptoms of dyssomnias. If the sleep problems last more than a week and there's no obvious cause, such as a change in diet or changes in routine that lead to stress, discuss the problem with your pediatrician.

Most of the common sleep disorders, such as sleepwalking and night terrors, generally do not occur until your child is ei18 months or older. 

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