Parents know they are not going to get much sleep when they have a new (or, yes, even new-ish) baby at home. In fact, research suggests parents don’t sleep all that well for the first six years of their children’s lives.
But eventually, the majority of children and families settle into a routine, and the nights become more restful. So when kids are still struggling, doctors start to consider more serious underlying sleep disturbances, which affect up to 30% of babies and children.
Researchers have just defined a new one: restless sleep disorder, or RSD. The condition affects children between the ages of 6 and 18 who toss and turn far more than is typical. They often have a difficult time focusing and face emotional and behavioral challenges as a result.
The researchers who defined the new disorder last month say it represents an exciting step forward in the world of pediatric sleep science, providing a “why” for many families who have failed to help their children get enough high-quality sleep and opening up an option for treatment.
“Before this, we didn’t have the tools — a standard of diagnosis — to say, ‘Oh yes, your child has restless sleep disorder,’” Dr. Lourdes DelRosso, a sleep physician at the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital, told HuffPost. DelRosso was the first to study RSD and led a 10-person international task force that, over 18 months, set forth diagnostic criteria for the newly defined disorder.
There wasn’t really anything doctors could do for those children previously, DelRosso said, and “that’s what makes this very important,” she argued.
It is too soon to say how common RSD may be, although DelRosso estimates that about 7% of the children she sees in her sleep lab may have the disorder.
For Melissa Caveness, a Washington-based mom of three, the new diagnosis has been game-changing. Her youngest daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with RSD after thrashing in bed...