Sleep Disorders

12 December 2018

Injured parent can equal sleepless nights for kids

A study indicates that children are more likely to have outpatient care for sleep disorders after a parent was injured.

Children face an increased risk for sleep problems if a parent suffers a serious injury, especially if the parent has a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study reveals.

Researchers used US Military Health System records to identify more than 485 000 children of more than 272 000 parents who were seriously injured in combat or daily life.

Common injuries among the parents were brain or battle injuries. The children in the study were up to 18 years old, with an average age of seven years.

Changing body clocks

Overall, children were 17% more likely to have outpatient care for sleep disorders after a parent was injured. Teens had a 37% increase in visits to a sleep specialist after a parent's injury.

Many teens already have sleep issues due to changing body clocks prompted by puberty and the challenges of high school, noted study author Dr Saira Ahmed, a paediatrics resident at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Children of parents with both a brain injury and PTSD had a 48% increase in visits to a sleep specialist, according to the study. It's scheduled for presentation at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference, in Orlando, Florida.

When a parent suffers a serious injury, it can alter a child's daily routine and the child may witness their parent's pain and recovery, Ahmed said in a meeting news release.

"It is imperative that medical providers discuss their children's sleep with parents and consider sleep in the care plan of children of injured parents," she said.

Image credit: iStock


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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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