• Vol. 37 No. 8, 722–728
  • 15 August 2008

Behavioural Sleep Disorders in Children and Adolescents



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Studies indicate that sleep problems in children and adolescents are highly prevalent, with prevalence rates ranging from 25% to 40%. They are even more common in special populations, especially children with psychiatric issues. Furthermore, sleep issues are often persistent. Unfortunately, sleep disturbances often do not receive the attention that they deserve, especially since they are often highly amenable to intervention. Sleep problems, in general, range from those that are physiologically-based, such as obstructive sleep apnoea and restless legs syndrome, to those that are behaviorally-based. The behaviourally-based sleep disorders are reviewed, including a discussion of assessment, prevalence and treatment. Non-pharmacologic approaches are usually the preferred treatment and have received the most empirical support in paediatric populations. It is strongly recommended that all paediatric healthcare providers consider sleep issues in their comprehensive assessment of all children and adolescents, especially those with psychiatric issues, and provide preventive education as part of their usual standard of care.

Overall, children spend one-third to one-half of their life sleeping. Although sleep comprises such a significant portion of a child’s day, sleep disturbances are often overlooked by healthcare practitioners.

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