Children’s Hospital test helping children find their ZZZs

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DENVER --Twenty percent of all children suffer from some type of sleeping problem.

Some of those problems can leave them tired and un-focused, possibly affecting their grades and behavior.

Desperate for help, many parents are now turning to over-night sleep studies, hoping to get some relief for their kids.

One of those families brought their 9-year-old daughter, Isabella, to the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Her mom, Tiffany, says Isabella has had trouble sleeping for years. “She gets up a lot. She wakes up a lot. She gets really frustrated that she can’t fall asleep,” Tiffany said.

So doctors put Isabella through an overnight sleep study. Technicians hooked up leads to her head to measure brain waves. There was a device under her nose to measure air flow and there were sensors on her legs.

“The question is- is her problem related to airway obstruction or could she be having kicking and periodic limb movements that are waking her up at night,” said Dr. Ann Halbower, a professor of pediatrics.

A video camera recorded Isabella all night long and machines monitored her breathing, brain waves and movements.

“Isabella was not sleeping well during the night,” Dr. Halbower said.

Her breathing was fine, and she wasn’t kicking too much, but her sleep pattern was off.

“A normal child her age will dive into deep restorative sleep right when they go to bed,” said Dr Halbower. Isabella’s restorative sleep started late, and so did her REM sleep. “She probably has what’s called a delayed sleep phase,” Dr. Halbower said.

She plans to track her sleep/wake cycle for a while, then devise a treatment plan.

Dr. Halbower says sleeping problems like this are more common in kids that some people expect.

The Sleep Center at Children’s performs 2500 sleep studies a year and doctors diagnose many different sleep issues.

Some kids have restless leg syndrome, or periodic limb movements when their legs kick in the night. Other kids have obstructive sleep apnea. They snore loudly and may momentarily stop breathing or wake gasping for air.

The doctor says those kids could develop heart problems, or behavior or attention issues.

“It’s important to recognize the problem to get the treatment in order to pick up kids who could be doing much better in school,” she said.

As for Isabella, she and her mom are very hopeful that she is on the right path and will soon be sleeping better.

“She does great in school. She does really well at soccer, and I’m just excited to see if this allows her to do even better at the things that she loves,” Tiffany said.
Children’s Hospital Colorado treats a number of other sleep conditions including narcolepsy, night terrors and sleep walking. Parents should consider bringing their child in for an appointment if their child is sleepy during the day, irritable and unfocused, and if they snore more than three nights a week and sweat a lot overnight.

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