Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona talks sleep disorders in children

The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona is a paid advertiser of Sonoran Living Live

Can sleep disorders affect my child?

In fact, sleep disorders are just as common in children as they are in adults. Unfortunately children are very often overlooked for a sleep disorder as it is felt that these disorders can only affect adults. Children are a very special group for us in sleep medicine as a result of the varying degrees to which a child may manifest a sleep disorder.

What are common sleep disorders that can affect a child?

Children are in fact at risk for almost every sleep disorder that an adult is at risk for. Children are at risk of insomnia (behavioral insomnia of childhood), pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (RLS), leg kicking during sleep, bedwetting, narcolepsy, sleep talking and sleep walking, and nightmare disorder.

How do children present with a sleep disorder?

A child that is not sleeping well will oftentimes manifest his or her symptoms of poor sleep very differently than an adult. While an adult will oftentimes report symptoms of fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and poor mood, a child very often becomes hyperactive, irritable, and has a difficult time concentrating. The child may also have poor school performance and may mimic signs and symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). In fact, many children currently diagnosed with ADHD by their pediatricians actually have an underlying sleep disorder and that child may not need to be on strong medications such as Ritalin, Adderall, and/or other amphetamine salts. These medications are dangerous and they should not be prescribed to children unless an absolute must as we in sleep medicine avoid using these medications, if possible, even in adults.

If you as a parent are witnessing any of these symptoms in your child then he or she should be evaluated for a potential underlying sleep disorder before being diagnosed with ADHD. I have treated many children in the past while training at Children's Hospital at Northwestern in Chicago, IL and at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago that were able to be discontinued from stimulant medication as a result of improving the child's sleep.

Can a child have sleep apnea?

A child most definitely can have sleep apnea. The cause of sleep apnea in an infant or child is the exact same as that in an adult. It is related to the child's oropharynx or back of the throat, i.e., how wide or narrow is it. Another sign that a child very likely has sleep apnea is the presence of snoring, grunting, or actually witnessing your child hold his or her breath while they sleep. A child should not snore and if he or she does then this is a big red flag as a snoring child has a very high risk of having sleep apnea. By definition, sleep apnea is diagnosed in an adult if he or she has at least 5.0 pauses in breathing per hour of sleep whereas a child is diagnosed with "pediatric sleep apnea" if he or she has at least 1.0-1.5 pauses in breathing per hour of sleep or more.

An important point to keep in mind in the setting of "pediatric sleep apnea" is that every time a child has a pause in their breathing while sleeping they have a sudden drop in their oxygen level which in turn can lead to permanent injury to his or her growing brain.

If your child snores, then have him or her be evaluated for "pediatric sleep apnea" even before you are told "oh we can just take his tonsils out". It is very important to know the level of sleep apnea in a child before and after tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy as successful treatment of sleep apnea in a child is having less than 1 pause in breathing per hour of sleep.

Ruchir P Patel, M.D., FACP

Fellowship trained in Adult and Pediatric Sleep Disorders Medicine
Medical Director and Founder, The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona

The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
(480) 745-3547

The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona is a paid advertiser of Sonoran Living Live

Print this article Back to Top