Pediatric sleep disorders require careful, extended evaluation that includes interviewing care givers, the child, and assigning and reviewing sleep diaries. Physical exam may provide clues to treatable medical causes. Diagnostic tests are available but difficult to access in many communities. Most sleep problems in children can be improved with instruction on sleep hygiene and the importance of sleep to health and behavior. Medical causes of sleep problems are rare but benefit from treatment and therefore warrant attention during any evaluation.
Pediatric sleep disorders should be a primary consideration in all children. At one time, elementary school children went to bed easily and woke up early, naturally without alarms. Now their sleep is disrupted by television, computer games, texting, and other digital distractions. Sleep deprivation is often the primary cause now of inattention, school failure, poor peer relations, and obesity. Medical causes of sleep problems are often overlooked in children because of their difficulty in reporting symptoms. Time devoted to evaluation and management of medical causes will be well rewarded with improved behavior and wellbeing.