Current Treatment Options in Neurology

, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 630-649

Treatment of Dyssomnias and Parasomnias in Childhood

  • Suresh KotagalAffiliated withNeurology, Pediatrics and the Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic Email author 

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Opinion statement

Dyssomnias are sleep disorders associated with complaints of insomnia or hypersomnia. The daytime sleepiness of narcolepsy is treated by a combination of planned daytime naps, regular exercise medications such as modafinil, or salts of methylphenidate, or amphetamine. Cataplexy that accompanies narcolepsy is treated with anticholinergic agents, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or sodium oxybate. Children with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism have sleep initiation and maintenance difficulties on a multifactorial basis, with favorable response to melatonin in some patients. Childhood onset restless legs syndrome is often familial, associated with systemic iron deficiency, and responsive to iron supplementation and gabapentin. Parasomnias are episodic phenomena events which occur at the sleep -- wake transition or by intrusion on to sleep. Arousal parasomnias such as confusional arousals and sleep walking can sometimes be confused with seizures. A scheme for differentiating arousal parasomnias from nocturnal seizures is provided. Since arousal parasomnias are often triggered by sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or acid reflux, treatment measures directed specifically at these disorders often helps in resolution. Clonazepam provided in a low dose at bedtime can also alleviate sleep walking and confusional arousals. Obstructive sleep apnea affects about 2 percent of children. Adeno-tonsillar hypertrophy, cranio-facial anomalies, and obesity are common predisposing factors. Mild obstructive sleep apnea can be treated using a combination of nasal corticosteroids and a leukotriene antagonist. Moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea are treated with adeno-tonsillectomy, positive airway pressure breathing devices, or weight reduction as indicated. This paper provides an overview of the topic, with an emphasis on management steps. Where possible, the level of evidence for treatment recommendations is indicated.


Narcolepsy Idiopathic hypersomnia Kleine Levin syndrome Restless legs syndrome Neurodevelopmental disorders Sleep walking Confusional arousals Rapid eye movement sleep disorder Central sleep apnea Obstructive sleep apnea Treatment Dyssomnias Parasomnias Childhood Pediatric