Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

Is It a Sleep Disorder?

Helping Sleepy Children Become Sleeping Children

Upon reaching the first grade, many children already find themselves with active schedules. Between school, homework and extracurriculars, it is important for children to stay healthy so that they can fully participate in their activities. However, when children are constantly exhausted, or overly tired before the day's end, there may be a bigger problem at hand.

"Insufficient sleep and poor sleep quality in children can have negative effects on their cognitive development, attention, mood and health," says Priyanka Yadav, a board-certified pediatrician and sleep medicine specialist who recently joined the staff of the RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center program."When children go to sleep for the appropriate number of hours and are consistently tired when they wake up, they may in fact be suffering from a sleep disorder."

Karen Travisano of Bridgewater began searching for answers to her son's exhaustion nearly two years ago. After consulting several doctors, including her son's pediatrician, she was advised to visit RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center and have her son, Johnathan, undergo a sleep study.

"A childhood sleep disorder is not something people think of right away," says Travisano. "Johnathan's throat and stomach would hurt and he was always tired, but we never put these symptoms together to equal a sleep disorder. No one made that connection until we visited RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center."

Providers at RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center met with 6-year old Johnathan and upon listening to his symptoms and experiences, immediately suggested that he undergo a sleep study.

"Johnathan went to RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center for the study with his dad," explains Travisano. "The staff was kind and helped Johnathan understand the process. RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center has special rooms for pediatric tests, so he felt comfortable. He was a real trooper."

After the sleep study, Johnathan was diagnosed with sleep apnea and fitted for a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure mask (CPAP). Rob McCaffrey, respiratory therapist at RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center, worked closely with the Travisano family as they all adjusted to the change in bedtime routine.

"Johnathan is probably one of only a few kids using a CPAP, but it has a made a big difference in his life," says Travisano. "His first-grade teachers even noticed the change when, after only one month of using the machine, he jumped up several reading levels."

The effects of pediatric sleep apnea can be very serious-especially when the problem goes undiagnosed. Learning about pediatric sleep health can help parents identify signs of troubled sleep and bring these issues to their pediatrician's attention. Additionally, awareness of common sleeping problems among children can help prevent the misdiagnosis of other more common problems such as attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).

"In recent years, more children are being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD," explains Dr.Yadav."However, many parents-and doctors-may not be aware that sleep disorders often exhibit many of the same symptoms as ADD. Sleep education and sleep-disorders testing are vital for preventing misdiagnoses and unnecessary medicating."

This fall Johnathan entered second grade as an active and well-rested child.

"It was such a relief to learn what the problem was and how to fix it," says Travisano."I've become much more educated about sleep issues."

RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center uses the latest technology, equipment and techniques to treat sleep disorders from diagnosis to selecting treatment to follow up and reassessment. For more information about RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center or to request an appointment, call 888-SFL-REST.

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