If your child is acting out and behaving differently, sleep may be the culprit – specifically, the lack of it.
One common but often hard to detect sleep problem is sleep apnea. This happens when the air passage is obstructed during sleep at intermittent intervals. This causes the child to gasp for air, struggle to resume breathing and have disturbed sleep throughout the night.
Often, hyperactivity in children is diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, when in reality, sleep apnea is the culprit. They are then prescribed medicine that they don’t really need.
It is thus important to find out whether sleep apnea is the true cause, if you have a hyperactive child on your hands.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Children
One common telltale symptom is when the child snores during sleep. Another symptom could be unusual sleeping positions, like slumping over a pillow, sitting upright in bed, and having their legs crossed.
They will also wake up frequently at night and show sleepiness in the daytime even when they have not stayed up late the night before.
Consequences of Sleep Apnea
The child finds it hard to sit still, pay attention and to listen. They are basically hyperactive, ‘bouncing off the walls’, and throwing tantrums or behaving in other loud, erratic ways.
There are also long-term consequences to sleep apnea. When sleep apnea goes untreated, it may affect parts of the brain associated with learning, adversely affecting cognitive function and academic performance, and taking points off a child’s IQ.
Untreated sleep apnea also apparently plays a role in childhood obesity, because children have less energy when they don’t get enough rest and are less physically active.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Diagnosing sleep apnea involves looking out for signs of enlarged tonsils and adenoids, which obstructs airflow and breathing for up to ten seconds at a time throughout the night. This is often performed by professionals, such as Sleep-Rite, a trusted provider of sleep studies.
Research also involves sleep tests that look into breathing patterns through the nose and mouth, eye movements, heart rhythm, activity in the muscles, brain wave patterns, chest movements and any signs of snoring.
Parents will also have to be aware if the child is behaving inattentively or is showing signs of hyperactivity, social problems, and perfectionism, and grade them accordingly.
Tips for Children Undergoing a Sleep Study
It is wise to prepare your child for the sleep study experience, so it takes away the unknown and puts them more at ease. Tell them that there will be absolutely no pain or needles involved, simply some wires.
Appeal to their imagination by comparing it to familiar fantasy or science fiction cartoons and other scenarios they can relate to.
Sleep can seem like such a simple thing to take for granted, but its importance in your child’s health and well-being cannot be overstated. If your child shows signs of ADHD, make sure they are breathing well throughout the night by signing them up for an overnight sleep study, conducted only by professionals who are well versed with what they are doing. This will make all the difference in your child’s sleep, and their life.