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Sleep disorders in children

Sleep problems, including problems at bedtime and frequent night waking, affect 30%–40% of infants and children before school age.1 Effects of sleep disorders on the health of the child may include poor growth, adverse behavioural and learning effects and, for the child and family, worsened mental health, and poor quality of life.2 The likelihood that important and treatable sleep disorders go unrecognised is increased because many parents do not mention their concerns to their general practitioner, or the doctor does not ask about or identify the issues.3,4 Simple management strategies can be effective at a primary care level. An important role of the GP or general paediatrician is to identify children’s sleep problems and to differentiate those who would benefit from referral to specialty services.

Average sleep times vary with age, and community surveys indicate considerable variability in sleep requirements, to the extent that normative values are sometimes debated. However, systematic review of the literature can guide general recommendations for sleep duration at different ages.5