From the day their child is born, parents fixate on few things as much as their child’s sleep. Tied to health, behavior, school performance, and countless other vital functions, children’s sleep is known to be of critical importance. While parents are diligent about working on their infant’s sleep, as their child ages and becomes more independent, it is considered less frequently. For those parents whose children initially have slept well, it can be particularly jarring when a sleep disorder develops in the early school years.
However, this is not uncommon. As children grow, the rapid changes in their body size may cause them to develop sleep abnormalities. Untreated allergies, tonsil infections, frequent colds, and other health issues may also exacerbate these sleep problems. Left untreated, these children suffer with poor quality of sleep. They are often mislabeled as hyperactive or as having behavioral issues when the reality is simply that they are overtired from sleeping poorly. This child will not report being sleepy, nor will they awaken their parents at night. Pediatric sleep disordered breathing is particularly difficult because the child does not completely awaken. They awaken due to obstructed breathing enough to alleviate the obstruction, but they then return to sleep. They are usually unaware that the awakening has even occurred.
For these children, simple assessment by a trained sub-specialist will help to diagnose the problem. Some children outgrow their sleep problems as they age. For those that do not, however, intervention is of critical importance. The period of brain development and growth that occurs during the preschool years may be permanently affected by poor sleep. Basic pediatric procedures, such as tonsillectomy, adenoid reduction, and treatment of the turbinates (located in the nose) often result in total resolution of the child’s sleep problems. The cure is often instantaneous and behavioral issues may reverse in just a matter of days as the child becomes better rested.