How do I know if my son has a sleep disorder?

My son has been having behavioral problems at school and the school counselor thinks that he might have a sleep disorder. I haven’t noticed anything about my son’s sleep, sometimes he will yell out while he is sleeping but he doesn’t usually wake up and I always just assumed they were nightmares. Is this a sleep disorder? What can I do to help him?

Doctors Answers (2)

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 9/17/2013

Behavioral issues may be secondary to a sleep disorder. Notably, Attention Deficit Disorder has been associated with both sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. Yelling out at night is not uncommon. His teacher may have other reasons for suspecting a sleep disorder. I would recommend that you discuss this with his physician.

Vector Sleep Diagnostics Center
Answered on: 9/9/2013 8

Sleep should be evaluated using sleep questionnaires that are administered by most sleep physicians- asking about quality of sleep, sleep patterns (hours of sleep) and some other aspects of sleep, behavior and daytime function. Another more objective way to assess sleep is by performing sleep test- polysomnography (PSG). This test is usually done in a sleep lab to rule out conditions such as sleep apnea. In adults sleep apnea presents mostly as daytime sleepiness, fatigue and loss of concentration, in children it may present as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Yelling, screaming and disrupted sleep could be due to parasomnia (diverse group of sleep disorders). Sleep doctor may be able to recognize it based on your description. In most cases this can be simply monitored without need for medications.