Pediatric Sleep Disorders

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Bad sleep habits can make your child tired and moody. They could also point to a serious medical issue.

UVA Children’s sleep disorders team treats all kinds of sleep issues. Your child could need care for nighttime breathing issues or other sleep-related problems. We'll work with your child when they're asleep and awake. Treatment will help your child get the sleep and energy they need to thrive.

Snoring or Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Snoring or sleep apnea is common in children. It blocks your child's breathing during sleep.

It’s most common between ages 2-6 and again in the teen years. Children with sleep apnea often:

  • Snore loudly
  • Have trouble breathing (their chest seems to suck in while trying to breathe)
  • Snort and gasp throughout the night

A lack of good sleep can make your child sleepy all day. Your child may have trouble staying awake at school. They may also act hyper, cranky, or have trouble concentrating.

Sleep conditions can also hurt your child's weight gain or cause high blood pressure.

Risk Factors

All children can get obstructive sleep apnea. Some children have more of a risk because of:

  • Large tonsils and adenoids
  • Obesity 
  • Down's syndrome
  • Craniofacial abnormalities
  • Neuromuscular weakness

When a Sleeping Child Stops Breathing

Stephen Early, MD, discusses the causes and treatments of obstructive sleep apnea in children. View sleep apnea transcript.


Apparent Life-Threatening Events (Near-Miss SIDS)

Infants who have an apparent life-threatening event suddenly and alarmingly change their behavior. The event can happen during wakefulness, sleep or feeding. You may notice changes in your child’s color, body tone, or see choking or gagging.

Causes for these events include:

  • Infection
  • Seizure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Acid reflux

If you see this happen with your baby, see a doctor. Our team can check your infant and determine the cause of the event.


Narcolepsy causes overwhelming daytime sleepiness. It can begin before the age of 10 or as late as the age of 50. In a typical child, the condition develops gradually between the ages of 15 and 35.

Sleepwalking and Related Symptoms

Sleepwalking, talking, screaming, and other behaviors during sleep can scare the whole family. These happen when a child doesn't wake up all the way from non-REM sleep.

Until age 5 or 6, most of these behaviors are just a normal part of growing up. They aren’t usually caused by physical or emotional problems.

In older children, that’s no longer the case. Sleepwalking, screaming, or other events could be caused by underlying emotional factors. This is especially true if the symptoms happen often.