Cascades Women's Health - Behavioral Problems May Indicate Sleep Disorder

Cascades Women's Health - Behavioral Problems May Indicate Sleep Disorder

Behavioral Problems May Indicate Sleep Disorder

School, behavioral problems may indicate sleep disorder

Texas Children''s specialists say sleep problems often unrecognized

HOUSTON - Children who suffer from poor school performance, memory lapses and behavioral problems may have a relatively common and treatable sleep disorder, according to specialists at Texas Children''s Hospital.

"Children who have problems in school may have sleep apnea, an airway obstruction that causes them to wake up often during the night," said Dr. Daniel G. Glaze, medical director of the Texas Children''s Sleep Center and associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

"Sleep disorders may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as other problems, such as attention deficit disorder," Glaze said. "Children may act out in ways that resemble hyperactivity when they just aren''t getting enough sleep."

Sleep disorders in children are a fairly new area of treatment; therefore, many pediatricians and parents are unaware of the signs and symptoms of sleep problems.

"Sleep disorders could be diagnosed and treated more effectively if pediatricians would ask parents about the child''s sleep habits," Glaze said. "Parents also must be aware of sleep disorders so they know when to consult a sleep specialist."

A common sleep disorder in children and teens is sleep apnea, in which the airway is obstructed, resulting in constant interruptions in breathing and sleep.

About 10-15 percent of children in the United States suffer from sleep disordered breathing, and 2-3 percent of children have sleep apnea, which may be cured once enlarged tonsils are removed.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include interrupted breathing and snoring. Children with these symptoms may have school problems, poor memory and hyperactivity. In fact, many children who seem hyper aren''t getting enough sleep and may move around trying to stay awake, according to Glaze.

Teenagers are at risk for sleep apnea, and they may suffer from a general lack of sleep that can lead to a drop in grades and a higher risk of auto accidents.

"Teens are notoriously active, balancing school activities, jobs and social lives," Glaze said. "Teens need nine to 10 hours of sleep, but they think they can get by on as little as six hours. However, lack of sleep has a negative impact on anyone."

At the Texas Children''s Sleep Center, specialists diagnose sleep disorders by taking a careful sleep history to identify children who need overnight monitoring in the sleep laboratory. Monitoring includes recording of brain activity, breathing effort and airflow, oxygen intake and extremity movement.

"The key to managing sleep problems is awareness," Glaze said. "Once a sleep disorder is diagnosed, it usually can be managed with medication, lifestyle changes or surgery in the case of childhood sleep apnea. When sleep is managed properly, both the patient and the family experience a greatly improved quality of life."

For details on the sleep center at Texas Children''s Hospital, visit

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