Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Little Kids with Adult-Sized Sleep Problems

Health-threatening snoring and obstructive sleep apnea -- pauses in breathing throughout the night -- aren't just problems for grown-ups. In a new study, researchers say night-time wake-ups and other clues could help parents get the right diagnosis and help for little kids with often-overlooked breathing problems during sleep.

Little Kids with Adult-Sized Sleep Problems

Toddlers who snore: Is there cause for worry?
Toddlers who snore: Is there cause for worry?

By Sari Harrar

Health-threatening snoring and obstructive sleep apnea -- pauses in breathing throughout the night -- aren’t just problems for grown-ups. In a new study, researchers say night-time wake-ups and other clues could help parents get the right diagnosis and help for little kids with often-overlooked breathing problems during sleep.

Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University tracked the sleep quality and night-time sleep disturbances of over 11,000 British kids from the time they were 18 months old until just before their 5th birthday.

Parents were asked if kids had been diagnosed with sleep apnea or snoring that interfered with sleep. To help identify at-home clues for these conditions, the researchers also asked parents whether their child had any of these unexpected signs of an underlying sleep problem:

  • Refusing to go to bed
  • Regularly waking up early
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Getting up after being put to bed
  • Waking up during the night

Children with five or more of these behaviors simultaneously were considered to have a clinically significant behavioral sleep problem. The study found a strong association between night-time sleep issues a parent would notice and a more serious sleep-disordered breathing problem: Up to 40% of kids with significant behavioral sleep problems had sleep-disordered breathing.

What’s the connection? The researchers say getting up at night or refusing to go to bed won’t cause sleep-disordered breathing, but a breathing problem could trigger those issues. They also warn that parents who respond anxiously to late-night wake-ups and the like can perpetuate those habits in kids, even after underlying breathing problems are fixed.

"It's important that we pay attention to how our children are sleeping," notes Karen Bonuck, Ph.D., professor of family and social medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health at Einstein."There's ample evidence that anything that interrupts sleep can negatively affect a child's emotional, cognitive, behavioral and academic development. Fortunately, snoring and apnea are highly treatable, and there are many effective interventions for behavioral sleep problems…Our findings should raise awareness among parents and physicians that if a child is sleeping poorly, they should delve deeper to see if there is an unrecognized respiratory-related sleep problem."

About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, M.D., Ph.D Jefferson Medical College
Mario Cruz, M.D. St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel University College of Medicine
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic, CHOP
Gary A. Emmett, M.D. Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Lauren Falini Bariatric exercise physiologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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