A sleep-medicine physician can help you figure out if your child’s night-time habit is more than just noise.
Many people think of snoring as an adult problem, but children also sometimes exhibit snorting, rasping or gasping sounds while sleeping. In some cases, the problem might be oversized tonsils. In others, the snoring could be the sign of a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.
This is one of the most common pediatric sleep disorders we see at the Sleep Center. In sleep “apnea” (which means to stop breathing), people temporarily stop breathing or have reduced breathing for 10 or more seconds at a time during their sleep. This prevents a deeper, restorative sleep that is especially important for kids 3 and up who need anywhere from 8 to 13 hours of sleep a day, depending on their age.
Today, up to 5 percent of kids today have sleep apnea. The size of their tonsils remains a common cause of obstructive sleep apnea, in addition to upper airway anatomical abnormalities. As with adults, being overweight is one of the biggest causes and risk factors; 17 to 30 percent of children today are in this category. The added weight in the chest and neck impinge on the mechanical construction of the airway.
Kids themselves may not realize they are having trouble sleeping, but parents might.
– Frequent snoring
– Abrupt arousals at night and difficulty staying asleep
– Waking with a sore throat or dry mouth
– Waking up with headaches
– Difficulty waking in the morning
– Daytime sleepiness
– They are moody or experiencing other behavior problems
– Depression or attention problems
– They are potty-trained, but are suddenly wetting the bed again at night
If your child displays any of the above symptoms – and especially if they have more than one or all of them – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you have your child evaluated for a sleep study.
It’s actually a very easy process – all the kids have to do is sleep! Polysomnographic sleep studies involve spending an overnight (with a parent) in our sleep lab. At our new facility, we have a special pediatric room with a private bathroom where parents can sleep in the same bed as their children, or in a separate bed next to them. The children are monitored overnight as they sleep using highly advanced diagnostic equipment that checks for things such as airflow and oxygen intake. A sleep technician is there all night to monitor equipment and attend to any needs.
And that’s it. In about a week, we’ll have analyzed the study data and be ready to make a diagnosis. Treatment for large tonsils could be as simple as a tonsillectomy to cure the apnea. In other cases, treatments include an airflow regulating mask to facilitate breathing in cases of apnea, as well as a weight management plan. Other sleep disorders such as parasomnia or “night terrors” might warrant behavioral health treatment.
Whatever the diagnosis, our credentialed staff is dedicated to getting to the source of the problem and helping your child get the sleep he or she needs.
Here are my best tips for making sure all kids are getting enough sleep:
1. Set a regular bedtime and wake time. On weekends, don’t let them sleep more than an hour or so longer than usual.
2. Establish a regular bedtime routine – such as a bath followed by reading, and not eating close to bedtime.
3. Take away their screens. The AAP recommends suspending device use at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and keeping TVs and computers out of their rooms.
4. Turn off the bright lights. Nightlights are okay, but stronger lighting can affect a teen’s ability to fall asleep even more than usual. Teens have a delayed melatonin release, which is why their bodies naturally want to stay up later at night and sleep later in the morning.
To make an appointment for a Sleep Study, call 914-681-2626 or visit the Sleep Center’s Webpage.
Dr. Fulvia Milite is a board certified sleep medicine specialist and Director of the Sleep Center at White Plains Hospital.