Wales

Hundreds of Welsh children treated for sleep problems

Sleeping children
Image caption Campaigners say sleep-deprivation could have "severe consequences"

Hundreds of children are being treated for sleep problems in Wales every year.

In some cases, babies, infants and teenagers have been admitted to hospital while in north Wales alone, the number being prescribed medication rose by 20% in the last three years.

Cases have included severe neuro-disabilities and epilepsy, but experts said many also suffered from insomnia, sleep walking and chronic nightmares.

Campaigners said sleep-deprivation could have "severe consequences".

The Children's Sleep Charity said many families were now at "crisis point" due to a lack of sleep, with technology use before bedtime being a major factor.

Public Health Wales (PHW) said sleep was as important to a child's health and wellbeing as healthy eating and exercise, and children with poor sleep patterns were more likely to be obese.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by BBC Wales found at least 408 children have been admitted to hospitals across Wales suffering from sleep disorders since March 2013.

However, the number is expected to be much higher as two health boards, Cardiff and Vale along with Powys, did not provide information.

Children aged between 0 and four made up the highest number of inpatients, with some newborns being treated for sleep-related issues from the day of birth.

Image caption Weight and growth can be affected, as well as mental health

Between March 2013 and 2017, the results found:

  • 2,431 children were prescribed medication by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (UHB) and last year 640 aged 0-18, received prescriptions, up 19.8% on 2013
  • 130 were also admitted to hospitals with sleep disorders including babies with suspected sleep apnoea
  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg UHB prescribed medication to 735 children since March 2014, of which 41% were aged between five and nine
  • More than 100 children were admitted to hospitals managed by Cwm Taf due to sleep problems - the youngest child was aged two
  • Hywel Dda UHB treated 63 children for sleep disorders in the last three years
  • At least 103 children were admitted for sleep problems to Aneurin Bevan-run hospitals

Vicki Dawson, founder of the Children's Sleep Charity, which supports families across the UK, said sleepless nights were taking their toll on both children and parents alike.

"Their weight and growth may also be affected as well as their mental health," she said.

"It is hugely important that families have access to appropriately trained sleep practitioners who can offer them support using a behavioural approach to sleep."

Image copyright Matt Cardy/getty
Image caption Children can be "over stimulated" and not have a chance to wind down properly

The body representing teachers in Wales, NUT Cymru, said children showing signs of sleep deprivation and fatigue in class was a concern as they cannot concentrate for long periods.

Owen Hathway, NUT Cymru's policy officer, said: "It can also have an impact on discipline with tired pupils prone to being more irritable and distributive."

Psychologist Amy McClelland, of Sleep Wales, said a common problem was children being "over stimulated" and "not having the chance to wind down properly" before bed and families should get back to basics.

"Think 1950s family home. Dinner as a family, reading, chatting, a film maybe, lights off and then bed," she added.

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