If the child is not sleeping: what diseases will children’s insomnia tell about?

It seems to you that the child sleeps a little? There is a chance that you do not sleep much yourself, and you simply do not have time for the child’s sleep mode. However, doctors today are sounding the alarm: more and more children are not sleeping enough. And some – do not sleep at all!MedAboutMe tells why babies and teenagers are awake longer and what it is like to have a child who has not fallen asleep for 6 years for a second.

What will happen if you do not sleep?

In the hypothalamus, part of the brain, there are more than 20 thousand neurons that deal exclusively with the biological rhythms of the body. They dictate when we want to sleep, and when it’s time to wake up. But these neurons may be unstable. What happens if the desire to sleep is suppressed by various methods?

The reasons for which we fall asleep, people tried to identify for many centuries. It was believed that a “sleepy poison” accumulates in the body, because of it we fall into an almost unconscious state.

For example, the famous Soviet science fiction   Alexander Belyaev   in the story “The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep,” by the hands of the character, Professor Wagner, he invented antihyptotoxin , a medicine that fights sleep. Sleep turned out to be a disease arising from the accumulation ofhypnotoxin in the muscles. Wonderful pills with antidote helped people to overcome fatigue and work day and night. True, nothing good came of it.

  • If you do not sleep all day, then there will be no major changes. Although statistics say: the level of concentration and memory will decrease, so driving a car after a sleepless night is not worth it, the neocortex, another part of the brain, begins to function as after taking a dose of alcohol sufficient for an accident.
  • If you do not sleep for 2-3 days, then fatigue will begin to be supplemented by a lack of coordination of movements, vision, speech will become monotonous – this is the effect of insomnia on the frontal lobes of the brain. And the lack of sleep will begin to affect the appetite: it will increase, you will want salty and fatty foods. The body will begin to try to accumulate energy and reduce fat burning: this fact is well known to nutritionists. Those who do not get enough sleep regularly gain weight faster. Oddly enough, at this time the body will also begin to produce sleep-fighting hormones, and the desire to sleep will disappear.
  • Four to five days without sleep affect the prefrontal cortex , and there are   hallucinations. And not the most pleasant. A person becomes irritable, and still loses the ability for the simplest arithmetic and logic due to violations in the parietal lobe of the brain, and speech becomes almost incoherent – this is a consequence of dysfunction of the temporal lobes.
  • A person for 6-7 days of insomnia behaves inadequately: he has both visual and auditory hallucinations. Stress affects the whole body: the heart muscle wears out, the liver works with overloads, the immunity drops sharply.

Randy Gardner , who set the official world record for the voluntary rejection of sleep, tried to stay awake for 11 days or 254 hours. The experiment with an American student was broadcast on live radio, and on day 6, Randy began to feel confident that the radio DJ was trying to kill him.

By the beginning of the seventh day, the student had paranoia, hallucinations, tremor of the extremities, and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. He took the road sign for the person and could not answer the simplest questions.

The boy who never slept

Voluntary experimenters have proven that we need to sleep. But there are diseases in which, however hard you try, it is impossible to sleep. And it’s not about insomnia due to stress or an abundance of coffee. These conditions are found even in very young children!

Jenny scofield   – one of the few children who   schizophrenia debuted in infancy. Her parents first of all noticed that the baby is able to fall asleep only with extreme fatigue, which is not characteristic of infants. She has to be literally harassed with activity and impressions, otherwise Jenny does not get to bed.

Severe sleep problems are not the only symptom of Jenny’s disease. She lives in two worlds at once – in the present and in the world of hallucinations, where she is surrounded by friends with strange names and habits. Accurate diagnosis helps to fight the disease, to separate fantasy from reality and fight insomnia. But what if lack of sleep is the only symptom?

Rett Lamb   born completely normal child. He also ate, cried, soiled diapers and began to smile at his mother in time. With one exception: he didn’t want to sleep at all, no matter how much he rocked. “His body was sometimes turned off, but his brain never slept. It was very scary to see it, ”says Rett ’s mother .

The child never slept, not one minute. Parents were forced to stand at the bedside at night. And for a long time, no doctor could tell what was happening with the boy.

Cases in which circadian rhythms are sharply disturbed in adults and they stop sleeping are known to science. This usually happens after serious injuries, infectious diseases, or clinical death. But in pediatrics, Rhett Lamb became the first child with complete functional insomnia.

The difficulty was not only in diagnosis. Never sleeping adults learn to compensate for the state of sleep with the help of the practice of meditation, try to observe a regime of rest. A child is not under force. Therefore, Rett’s accumulated symptoms led to character disturbances: he was not in contact with other children, was irritable and aggressive, and often fought. And he began to have a developmental delay: it stopped at the level of the one-and-a-half year old baby, and the boy did not learn to talk.

By three years, the diagnosis was established: Retari had a Chiari defect.

Chiari anomaly : congenital malformation with various manifestations

Arnold malformation – Chiari or Chiari malformation is a congenital pathology of the development of the cranial box or brain tissue. Due to the increased volume of the brain or insufficient volume of the skull in the region of the occipital fossa, the medulla and cerebellum are compressed, displaced and malfunctioning. Moreover, an anomaly can manifest itself as in infants, and debut at an older age.

The main symptoms of an anomaly depend on what and how it is compressed. Among them are:

  • headache   pain that occurs or increases during coughing, sneezing, tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulder girdle, pain in the back of the head, neck area;
  • dizziness, including when turning the head from side to side (up to fainting), tinnitus, motor awkwardness;
  • feeling of numbness, tingling in the fingers, awkwardness of fine motor skills, disturbances of temperature sensitivity (frequent burns, the ability to touch hot objects);
  • there may be an increased vomiting symptom that is not associated with eating. In infants – frequent regurgitation, food ingestion in the nose, swallowing disorder, noisy breathing, sleep apnea, nystagmus, dysarthria, etc.

There are many symptoms and they are ambiguous. To establish a clear diagnosis, the only examination option is suitable – MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, and it is carried out in children in a state of medication sleep. All other methods are not informative, because they do not allow to see a complete picture of changes in the soft tissues of the brain and bone structures.

How is Chiari’s vice treated?

  • If the diagnosis is made according to the MRI results, but there are no symptoms, then the anomaly does not require treatment.
  • If the manifestations are in headache, then patients are prescribed muscle relaxants, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • If the symptoms are much more pronounced, then the only way out is surgery. There are two options: bypass surgery to reduce the pressure of the CSF on the brain, or to remove a portion of bone tissue.

The boy who never slept, lived without sleep until 6 years. At three, Retari was diagnosed with Chiari’s defect with compression of the cerebellum, which is not amenable to medication. However, the parents refused to undergo surgery for up to 6 years, fearing the consequences, and all these years were still on duty at night in the children’s bedroom, trying to keep the child in the crib.

However, by the age of 6 years, the manifestations reached a peak: the child did not develop at all intellectually, constantly cried, was irritable and aggressive, beat his parents … After preparing, Rhett had a difficult operation that ended successfully. Today, the boy (and his family) sleep normally at night, Rett makes up for lost time, speaks and reads, and behaves like a normal child during the day.

Sleep without pathologies

Chiari’s vice is dangerous with possible complications: hydrocephalus, persistent limb paralysis, and neurological abnormalities may develop. But even without such problems, “normal” lack of sleep has a negative effect on health. Scientists are sounding the alarm: last year alone, the number of visits to doctors complaining about the lack of sleep among children increased by 30%! If earlier it was believed that insomnia is a problem for older people, today age limits have dropped to the level of teenagers. And it’s not about the disease.

Children do not sleep mainly due to such reasons:

  • increased anxiety, anxiety about school, family troubles, news on TV, radio, from the Internet;
  • violation of sleep, including family, when the time for communication is only in the evenings;
  • passion for gadgets. And not only by games, chatting or reading, even a small light source from a smartphone can disrupt melatonin production.


Sleep disturbances are a problem of the modern world. If doctors have learned how to deal with diseases that lead to such pathologies, then daily deviations from the regime will have to be managed independently. And although laying down to bed in time for a baby or teenager is not an easy task, but allowing one to play a little longer means harming one’s health, especially children’s.

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