Childhood Problems

The Sleep Disorders Center is one of the few centers dedicated to the evaluation of cardiorespiratory disorders in infants, children and adolescents during wakefulness and sleep. The center is equipped to diagnose and treat children with sleep-disordered breathing as well as a variety of other sleep-related problems. Some of the more common pediatric problems are listed below:

Snoring or Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Snoring or obstructive sleep apnea is a relatively common problem in children. It can be seen in children of all ages from infants to adolescents, but peaks between two to six years. There also seems to be a secondary peak in adolescence. Boys and girls are equally affected. Similar to adults, children with obstructive sleep apnea will often develop symptoms of loud snoring, difficulty breathing (their chest seems to suck in while trying to breathe), and intermittent snorts and gasps. The disrupted sleep can lead to symptoms of excessive sleepiness during the day (falling asleep in school). In some children, the disrupted sleep will cause symptoms of hyperactivity, irritability, difficulties in school. Other problems caused by obstructive sleep apnea can include: failure to gain weight and high blood pressure. All children are at risk to develop obstructive sleep apnea. Children at increased risk include those children with large tonsils and adenoids, children who are overweight, children with Down's syndrome, children with craniofacial abnormalities, and children with neuromuscular weakness.

Apparent Life-Threatening Events ( Near-Miss SIDS)
Infants with an apparent life-threatening event present for medical attention because a sudden and unexpected change in behavior alarmed the caretaker. The event can happen during wakefulness or sleep or during feeding. The caretaker will often describe a change in color, a change in body tone, choking or gagging. Most times it is felt that the event was life-threatening to the infant. There are many causes for these events including: infection, a seizure, irregular heart beat, or gastroesophageal reflux. In addition, these infants may require evaluation in the Sleep Disorders Center as part of the evaluation to determine the cause of the event.

Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes people to have overwhelming daytime sleepiness. It affects men and women equally. Although narcolepsy can begin before the age of 10 or as late as the age of 50, gradual onset between 15 and 35 years of age is usual.

Sleepwalking and Related Symptoms
Sleepwalking, talking, screaming, and other behaviors during sleep may be frightening and disruptive to the family. All of these events occur during a partial waking from non-REM sleep. Until age five or six, most of these episodes are developmental. This means that they are not usually caused by physical or emotional problems, but instead are only reflections of the normal maturation of a child's sleep stages. In an older child, these events can no longer be thought of as developmental. Underlying emotional factors now are likely to be relevant, especially if the arousals are frequent. For more information, please refer to the book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber.