Sleep Disorders When Kids Have Night Terrors

Parasomnia in children is associated with significant daytime symptoms including headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, and mood disturbances.

Sleep disordered breathing, periodic limb movement, and mood disturbances are common comorbidities in pediatric patients with parasomnias, researchers reported here.

Among children with parasomnia, roughly half surveyed reported snoring, mood disturbances, or demonstrated signs of obstructive sleep apnea on a pediatric sleep questionnaire, according to Arveity Setty, MD, of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio, and colleagues.

Other common co-conditions with pediatric parasomnia included breathing pauses, frequent leg movements, insomnia, and adverse effects that occurred during waking hours, Setty noted at a poster presentation at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting.

Prior research has shown that sleep disordered breathing can trigger parasomnias and that treating sleep apnea can also resolve parasomnias. Parasomnias, such as night terrors, are common in pediatric populations.

Other research has also shown associations between epilepsy and parasomnias, night waking, sleep duration, and daytime sleepiness in pediatric populations.

The authors studied sleep complaints and coexisting sleep disorders through a survey of 145 pediatric patients, ages 1 to 20, with parasomnia through survey and overnight sleep study at a single center. Participants had a mean age of 11.3.

Patient’s sleep complaints and daytime symptoms were recorded, as were data from the overnight sleep study, to compile frequency of various co-occurring symptoms with patients’ parasomnias. Coexisting disorders were validated through polysomnography.

Nearly half of the patients in the study had symptoms of snoring (48.3%), insomnia (41.4%), mood disturbances (41.4%), and had Michigan Pediatric Sleep Questionnaire scores indicating obstructive sleep apnea (40.7%).

Roughly one-third of study participants reported breathing pauses while sleeping (35.2%) and received a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea following the overnight sleep study (31%).

Frequent leg movements were reported by 22.1% of participants and confirmed periodic limb movement disorder in 17.9% of patients following the sleep study.

In addition to mood disturbance, other daytime adverse events included daytime headache in 7.6% of patients, daytime sleepiness in 22.1% of patients, and, following scoring though the Epworth sleepiness scale, significant excessive daytime sleepiness in 15.9% of patients.

Participants who participated in long-term follow-up and received treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder showed improvement in parasomnia.

“Parasomnia in children is associated with significant daytime consequences, including daytime headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, and mood disturbances,” as well as coexisting disorders such as sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder, Setty concluded.

Setty added that follow-up studies should determine whether the daytime symptoms are the result of the parasomnia or the associated and coexisting sleep disorders.

By Cole Petrochko