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Infant Sleep Apnea, Bedwetting and Myoclonus

Other Parasomnias

Some parasomnias don't fit into accepted classifications, although they are acknowledged sleep disorders. Here are a few examples of these disorders.


Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, is very common in young children: fifteen percent of American children wet the bed. Boys are more likely to suffer from enuresis than girls, and the condition often runs in families. Although bedwetting is a cause of embarrassment and frustration, only rarely is it an indication of a serious problem. Most bedwetters are otherwise healthy, both physically and mentally.

Bedwetting is classified as primary and secondary enuresis. Primary enuresis means that the child has wet the bed since he was a toddler, and usually indicates that the child's bladder control is developing a little slower than normal.

Secondary enuresis occurs when the child returns to bedwetting after being dry at night for several months. Emotional factors, including stress, insecurity or even depression may play a role, but more often a specific cause cannot be pinpointed.

Remembering that the child does not wet the bed on purpose is important. Parents can help by showing support, praising dry nights, and not punishing for wet nights. Limiting liquids before bedtime and encouraging the child to urinate before bed may help. Some parents periodically wake their child through the night to urinate. Only rarely is bedwetting serious enough to warrant medication.

Infant Sleep Apnea

Infant sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous condition in which the child stops breathing repeatedly throughout the night. Infant sleep apnea can come in three forms:

Central Apnea: brain mechanism problems interfere with the
respiratory process.
Obstructive Apnea: a physical obstruction in the airway, such as
loose tissue in the throat, causes blockages of the airway.
Mixed: a combination of the above two forms.

Infant sleep apnea is a concern for premature babies: up to eighty percent of infants delivered before 31 weeks develop the condition. Only approximately seven percent of babies brought to term when delivered are likely to have the disorder.

If you believe your child has sleep apnea, call your doctor: the disorder can be life threatening. While most children outgrow the condition, surgery or medication may be required. Symptoms can include gasping for air, coughing while asleep, or snoring.

Enlarged Tonsils

Children whose tonsils are large enough to obstruct the upper airway may experience sleep apnea, snoring, frequent waking, daytime fatigue, irritability, bed wetting. If you child is experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis, ask your pediatrician to examine her tonsils and adenoids.

Other Parasomnias

Myoclonus is the spontaneous twitching of limbs while asleep. Myoclonus is not considered a serious disorder.

Sleep-Related Abnormal Swallowing: Saliva builds up and is inhaled as a person sleeps. This causes coughing and choking that wakes the affected person.

Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome: A condition in which otherwise healthy adults die in their sleep. No medical explanation for the deaths has been found. People may make choking noises, gasp for air, or have trouble breathing as they sleep, but tests for apnea prove negative. Southeast Asian males seem most at risk from sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome.

Primary Snoring: a vibration of the airways during sleep. Snoring is irritating to others, but harmless unless symptoms of apnea are detected.
Home | Arousal | Sleep-Wake Transition | REM Sleep | Other Parasomnias
Night Terrors | Sleep Paralysis | Teeth Grinding | SIDS
Arousal: Those that wake the sleeper; night terrors and sleepwalking.
Night Terrors
Sleep-Wake Transition: Those that cause partial arousal; sleep talking.
REM Sleep: Those that occur during REM; RBD and sleep paralysis.
Sleep Paralysis
Other Parasomnias: Bedwetting, teeth grinding and SIDS 
Teeth Grinding

Last modified 20 September 2006
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