Pediatric sleep disorders represent highly common phenomena that often interfere with daily patient and family functioning. Interest in and treatment of sleep disturbances in youth continues to increase, but research continues to lag. A recent survey indicated that pediatricians were more likely to prescribe antidepressant medications for insomnia than psychiatrists. Further investigation is needed to develop empirically based detection and treatment of pediatric sleep disorders.
Reciprocal relationships occur between sleep disorders and comorbid psychiatric disorders. For example, when a given child with recurrent depression has an exacerbation, sleep problems often increase simultaneously. On the other hand, disrupted and inadequate sleep alone can produce behavioral, affective, and cognitive dysfunction.
Neurobiologically, closely linked modulatory systems appear to regulate sleep, alertness, and attention span. This article focuses on the most prevalent sleep problems among youths that are typical and distinctly unique from adult sleep disorders. Night terrors, nightmares, and sleep apnea are covered only briefly.