The pandemic has multiplied the consultations of children and adolescents for sleep disturbances

S. F.




The situation of a prolonged pandemic for 12 months and the uncertainty of not knowing when this situation will end has had a psychological impact on children and adolescents. According to the Spanish Society of Psychiatry, anxiety, sleep disturbances, obesity, and stress somatizations (when the person subjected to a high level of stress or anxiety begins to have physical symptoms), These are problems that have been increasing throughout this year and that have caused an increase in pediatric consultations for these reasons.

As explained by Dr. Fernando Baixauli, pediatrician at Vithas Castellón, Vithas Valencia Consuelo and Vithas Valencia 9 de Octubre, “with restrictions to alleviate infections, children have completely lost their previous routines, although they go to school, they cannot perform their extracurricular sports activities, going out with friends or seeing, for example, your dearest family members such as grandparents or cousins. This, added to the fear of the disease, the anguish for sick relatives, the comments of the adults in front of the children, the constant news about the number of deaths and the not receiving an answer about when this situation will end, these disorders increase and are causing anxiety, obesity and educational problems for the little ones “and adds” Children have been experiencing emotions such as uncertainty, fear, anxiety, behavior problems, irritability, disobedience, enuresis, abuse of new technologies, for more than 12 months. and of course, sleep problems.

Poor quality sleep can affect children’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. Sleep health in children is a very important factor in their physical and psychological development. Therefore, a problem in falling asleep or persistent night terrors in childhood can affect the concentration, learning and even the mood of the child. “Having a healthy sleep habit and getting enough hours of sleep is very important for a child’s brain growth. The great neuronal development depends to a great extent on the substances that are secreted (proteins, hormones, etc.) during sleep ”, says the professional.

“Mainly,” the specialist emphasizes, “the most frequent problems associated with the current situation generated by covid-19 are insomnia (difficulty falling asleep) and parasomnias, mainly nightmares. To this must be added that, in younger children, the cases of refusal to go to bed and night awakenings have increased ”.

Night terrors

Since the pandemic began, the cases of children with sleep disorders have increased considerably. One of them is night terrors2, a sleep interruption that seems similar to a nightmare, but is much more dramatic. An alteration that usually manifests itself by a situation of stress or fatigue.

According to the specialist, “during a night terror, the child may suddenly sit up in bed, scream in anguish, accelerate breathing and heart rate, be totally sweaty, very scared or upset. His fear is impossible to calm, but after a few minutes, or a little longer, the child simply calms down and goes back to sleep. Unlike nightmares, which children often remember, children do not remember the night terror the next day because they were in a deep sleep when it happened and there are no mental images to remember.

Sleep routines

To avoid these problems it is best to carry out stable schedules, establish a daily routine and create a comfortable sleep habitat. Dr. Baixauli emphasizes that “it is important that during the afternoon cola drinks or chocolate are avoided and that the physical activity of the child at home does not take place just in the hours before going to sleep. Of course, to emphasize that the use of television to fall asleep or the exposure of more than two hours a day to a screen, are factors that will favor wakefulness.

The sleep problem also affects many adolescents today. For example, there is a normal delay in the onset of sleep and you need more sleep than in previous years. »The adolescent who does not sleep 8 to 10 hours at night, does not get enough rest, -states the pediatrician-, is irritable, has difficulty waking up and has lower academic performance (in the first hours of class). For this, it is essential to avoid video games, study, mobile phone, internet an hour before bedtime… and not to use the TV to fall asleep, also you should not be in your room, not consume stimulants (caffeine, cola…) and practice regular physical exercise. The educational objective is to sensitize the adolescent of the importance of having a good and sufficient sleep ».

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