Caring for a child with a sleep disorder

Q. How much sleep do children require?

Meet Dr. Bandla

doctor

Hari Bandla, MD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Chief, Section of Pediatric Sleep Medicine

Medical Director, Pediatric Sleep Medicine

Did you know?

  • One out of four children will experience some type of sleep problem.

 

  • Snoring may be a sign your child needs help. Other signs include: difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night or too early in the morning and feeling tired throughout the day.

 

  • Poor sleep quality and/or quantity in children can result in academic, behavioral, developmental and social difficulties, as well as weight issues.

 

  • With proper diagnosis and treatment, your child can be a good sleeper.

Comer’s Sleep Programs

  • General Pediatric Sleep Clinic
  • Pediatric Insomnia Program
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Program
  • Sleep and Ventilation Program

Dr. Bandla: The amount of sleep a child requires depends on his or her age. Infants typically require 12-15 hours of sleep a night, while school-aged children need between 9 and 11 hours. Even within the same age group, sleep needs vary from child to child.

Q. What impact does lack of sleep have on my child?

Dr. Bandla: Sleep is vital to a child’s health. Loss of sleep can lead to changes in mood and behavior, difficulties with concentration, and poor school performance. Recent research also shows that sleep loss in children can cause weight gain and obesity.

Q. What causes childhood sleep problems?

Dr. Bandla: Sleep disorders are very common, with up to 25 percent of children experiencing difficulties. There are several causes of sleep problems. For example, children with enlarged tonsils and/or excess weight have a higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Iron deficiency can cause restless leg syndrome, which often is misdiagnosed as growing pains. Certain medications also can impact a child’s ability to sleep well.

Q. Anything else?

Dr. Bandla: Poor sleep hygiene – such as too much activity or screen time before bed – and irregular sleep schedules can lead to difficulty sleeping.

Q. My child snores. Is this a sign of a sleep condition?

Dr. Bandla: Snoring may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious medical condition that causes obstruction in the upper part of the airway. Children with OSA frequently experience pauses in breathing, which leads to fragmented sleep. Other nighttime symptoms of OSA include heavy breathing, gasping and/or choking. During the day, a child with sleep apnea may be moody or have trouble concentrating.

Q. How are sleep problems diagnosed?

Dr. Bandla: The first step in evaluating a child for sleep problems is to take a comprehensive health history. Your child’s physician may also ask you to complete a detailed log of your child’s sleep habits and have your child wear a portable device to record sleep data. After an initial appointment, the sleep team may recommend an overnight sleep study to gather more information.

Q. How are they treated?

Dr. Bandla: At Comer Children’s Hospital, we believe in a multidisciplinary approach. Our team includes board certified pediatric sleep specialists, as well as a clinical psychologist and pediatric otolaryngologist. We work together to identify the proper treatment for each child, which may include: behavioral modification techniques, medication, removal of the tonsil and adenoids, and/or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.

Q. What can I do at home to help my child sleep better?

Dr. Bandla: Consistency is key, especially for young children. Parents should set a regular bedtime and wake up time. It’s also helpful to implement a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities and restricts use of technology. Lastly, make sure your child has a comfortable sleep environment that is cool, quiet and dark.

Q. Are there any sleep studies currently under way at the University of Chicago?

Dr. Bandla: We’re currently working to develop new methods for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea. Our physician-scientists are also examining the impact of OSA on neurocognitive function.

If your child has a sleep disorder, or you think that he/she should be tested, please call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200 to schedule an appointment. To learn more, visit uchicagokidshospital.org.

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