Sleep-Related Bruxism (Tooth Grinding) Another problem that affects children is tooth grinding. The child doesn’t realize that it is happening, but the parents may hear the grinding, or the child may complain of a sore jaw or face in the morning. Sometimes the first indication of a problem occurs at a checkup when the child’s dentist notices a wearing down of the dental surfaces. “Bruxism in children usually occurs before the permanent teeth come in and goes away by the age of 8 or 9,” says Dr. Kilkenny. The causes of tooth grinding are unknown. However, sleep-related bruxism is more likely to occur during times of stress, and seems to run in families. The most common treatment is a mouth guard, fitted by a dentist, which is worn during sleep. It doesn’t prevent the grinding, but does prevent further damage to the teeth.
Solniloquy (Sleep Talking) Talking during sleep is a common occurrence among children, but is not something to be concerned about. Sleep talking rarely results in arousal from sleep or requires any treatment. Sleep talking occurs in young children primarily, and happens during the first few hours of sleep. It does not occur as part of a dream since dreaming occurs during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, during the last third of the sleep period. Sleep talking is associated with fevers, obstructive sleep apnea and sleepwalking.
Night Terrors Night terrors differ from nightmares because they occur approximately 90 minutes into sleep during stage 3 or stage 4 non-REM sleep. “Night terrors are characterized by a bloodcurdling scream,” says Dr. Kilkenny. “The child may be sitting up in bed, staring off into space. They may be unresponsive to a parent’s attempts to wake or comfort them, but after about 20 minutes they usually go back to sleep and rarely remember the episode.” Like other parasomnias, children will outgrow night terrors.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Sleep apnea is a breathing problem that occurs when the upper airway is blocked during sleep. It causes pauses in breathing during sleep and upsets normal sleep patterns. Though not a sleep parasomnia, obstructive sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder and should not be ignored. “Any child who snores should be evaluated by a sleep specialist,” says Dr. Kilkenny. “Sleep apnea can result in sleep deprivation, failure to thrive, and even death in some cases. Luckily, most cases of pediatric sleep apnea can be resolved by removal of enlarged tonsils and adenoids.”