Childhood Night Terrors May Indicate Sleep Apnea

Preliminary findings of a new study show that night terrors among children may be a sign that they have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which the sufferer’s breathing stops for periods of time while sleeping.  It’s usually accompanied by snoring, and can at times be fatal.  At minimum, the victim is usually tired due to lack of good sleep.

The study, conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, looked at 145 children aged 1 to 20 years.  Each of the subjects had some type of nighttime issue, such as night terrors. The mean age of the study population was 11.3 years. All participants underwent an overnight sleep study.

Researchers discovered that almost half of the participants reported snoring. Insomnia and mood disturbances were each reported by more than 40%.  More than one-third reported breathing pauses. Frequent leg movements during sleep and daytime sleepiness were each reported by more than one-fifth.

The researchers also found that the children and adolescents who participated in long-term follow-up and received treatment for obstructive sleep apnea and periodic limb movement disorder demonstrated improvement.

The researchers concluded that sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, frequently coexist with issues such as night terrors. Because these issues are often associated with significant daytime consequences such as headaches, sleepiness, and mood disturbances, evaluation for and treatment of any underlying or coexisting sleep disorders are critical.

Source: Contemporary Pediatrics