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Pediatric Sleep Disorders

If you’re always tired, you have plenty of company. A recent study shows two-thirds of Americans get less sleep than they should. And sleep deprivation and sleep disorders can also affect children.

CBS2’s HealthWatch reporter Paul Moniz joins us with the stories of three families.

Parents, especially those with young children, complain all of the time about their children’s erratic sleep habits and how those habits affect them. But in some kids, sleeping difficulties can be a sign of a medical problem--a sleep disorder.

But too often neither parents nor doctors recognize the problem. Here’s how you can.

For the past 8 weeks, Katherine and Patrick have been consumed by the terrifying sleep disorder that threatens their daughter Rose’s life.

"She has a Velcro band here with a sensor and another sensor here if she stops breathing," says Katherine. During all sleep periods, Rose is attached to this monitor, which alarms when she stops breathing for longer than 20 seconds. Doctors say she has central apnea, which causes her to turn blue. The only way to revive her is heartbreaking for her mom. "We never had to do CPR, but you have to inflict pain, which you don’t want to do to your child," explains Katherine.

Katherine and Patrick have to bring Rose out of her condition by flicking her or running their fingernail down her spine, causing her to flail and come out of her state.

Doctors have determined that seizures are causing Rose’s apnea. Her prognosis is much improved since being treated with antiseizure medicine.

Experts say that as many as one in four children suffer from sleep problems or sleep disturbances, ranging from recurrent nightmares to teeth grinding. About 4% suffer from more serious conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, a temporary block in the flow of air into the airway--resulting in a deprivation of oxygen. A recent study shows that sleep is essential for brain development in early life--and lack of it can have severe consequences.

Dr. Tracey Carbone, director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center, says, "over many many years, they [sleep disorders] truly can cause high blood pressure and long-standing effects on the heart."

Carbone is a pediatrician who specializes in sleep disorders. She says that the condition is underdiagnosed because the warning signs in children are often different from those in adults and parents don’t often recognize them.

Instead of tiredness, children with sleep disorders often become irritable, have problems concentrating, act defiant, and exhibit behavioral or learning problems at school. Sleep disorders can also affect growth. At 26 pounds, 3 year-old Gregory Ceccon not only snores loudly but is under-height and underweight.

"He doesn’t like any fruit, any vegetables, he doesn’t eat that much, eats like a bird," says Lisa Ceccone.

T learn the exact cause of his sleep disturbances, Gregory’s parents have brought him to this high-tech pediatric sleep lab at New Jersey’s Valley Hospital, the only one in the state. Gregory will spend the night with 21 electrodes attached from head to toe, measuring everything from brain waves to breathing.

Sleep disorders can affect older kids as well. Michael Manning and sister Katie both had obstructive sleep apnea for several years before getting treatment. Their mom is a pediatric registered nurse, yet even she didn’t recognize the symptoms until Michael began having problems in the first grade. "He was falling behind on his reading, his teacher brought that to my attention," admits Michael’s mom.

Two months ago, both children had surgery their enlarged tonsils and adenoids removed. Katie has stopped choking on food and Michael’s schoolwork has improved considerably. "They’re happier, they're more pleasant, they’re not iritable. I don’t think parents understand the severity of this," explains their mom.

Sometimes symptoms of sleep disorders can be similar to those of attention deficit disorder, or ADHD. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and is not responding well to the current therapy, it may be time to request a sleep evaluation.

To learn more about sleep disorders in children log onto the CBS 2 information network at cbsnewyork.com

For further information on pediatric sleep disorders, please go to the following web addresses:

Valley Hospital: www.valleyhealth.com

National Sleep Foundation: www.sleepfoundation.org
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