Sleep Issues Among Children With Cerebral Palsy0

Caring for a child is not always an easy job, especially if the child has a condition like cerebral palsy (CP). However, it doesn’t have to be hard. There are certain methods involved with caring for special children that can be used to make things a whole lot easier — not only for the child — but for the whole family. 

Common Reasons Why a Child with CP May Have Trouble Sleeping

Many children who have CP have problems sleeping at night. In fact, 23 to 46 percent of children with this illness have sleep issues. That’s much higher than the 20 percent of children without disabilities who also have problems sleeping. What’s more is, nearly 40 percent of children who have cerebral palsy may require attention at least once during the night. This can be problematic for the person having to tend to the child as losing sleep can put a strain on focusing and concentrating. 

There can be numerous reasons why a child with CP may have trouble sleeping, the following are just some of the more common reasons… 

  • Involuntary teeth grinding (Bruxism) 
  • Constipation  
  • Muscle Spasms or Pain 
  • Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD) 
  • Breathing disorders/Respiratory Conditions 
  • And more 

Problem: Involuntary teeth grinding (Bruxism) 

Bruxism is a medical term for jaw clenching or teeth grinding. Some of the reasons why a child might develop Bruxism are anxiety, hyperactivity, muscle spasms, emotional stress, and more. It is very common for CP children to have bruxism. 


Studies show that bruxism can be controlled by wearing resin, acrylic protective mouth-wear that can be made and fitted by a dentist.

Another method is to help the child relax before bed by giving him/her a warm bath, reading them a bedtime story, or listening to soothing music. [4] 

Problem: Constipation 

74 percent of individuals with cerebral palsy are affected by constipation. This is usually due to daily food intake and increased fluids. [5] 


 If constipation is suspected, conservative measures are recommended and limit the use of medications unless they are required in severe cases.

Problem: Muscle Spasms or Pain 

Studies found that up to 84 percent of individuals with CP experience pain and half of them feel pain daily. This may be due to misaligned joints, muscle contractions, spasms, or other deformities as well as the use of casts, braces, splints, or other devices worn.


 In many cases, medications can be used to relieve pain. In the case of joint and muscle pain, anti-spastic or anticholinergic drugs can be used and anti-inflammatory medications can be beneficial to reduce general pain. In severe cases, surgery may be required. Although it can increase pain temporarily, it should get better each day until the pain is at least tolerable or gone completely.

Problem: Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD) 

A study involving 58 children with CP, found that 32 percent of them had abdominal pain and nearly all experienced gastrointestinal distress. It’s no wonder as 80 to 90 percent of children with severe CP will develop GERD.


 Medication can be taken to treat gastrointestinal issues. 

Problem: Breathing disorders/Respiratory Conditions 

Respiratory issues have a major impact on the life expectancy of a child with CP. There are numerous reasons why a child with CP may have problems breathing. Although some respiratory conditions may be associated with GERD or drooling, other cases can be more severe. Malnutrition can result from a child with CP not being able to eat and breathe at the same time. If not treated, breathing disorders can lead to lung injuries, pneumonia, or even chronic lung disease.


 Because respiratory disorders can be life-threatening to a child with CP, it is important to always monitor their breathing and see a doctor right away if breathing seems difficult. 

Children living with CP may require a little more attention than others, but they are always a joy to be around when they feel safe and content. Some people may find it difficult to care for a child with cerebral palsy, if this is the case, there is always help available. Talk to a social worker or a licensed physician for assistance. 

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