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Children's sleep disorders going undiagnosed

Cover Media logo Cover Media 17/2/2019
a little girl sitting on a bed © Provided by Cover Media Ltd

Experts have advised parents to get their children checked out for breathing-related sleep disorders - as vast numbers may be going undiagnosed.

A new study published by the American Osteopathic Association has found that up to 15 per cent of kids have some form of sleep disordered breathing (SDB) like obstructive sleep apnoea (OBS) - which can regularly keep sufferers awake. However, according to Dr. John White, a South Carolina dentist who co-authored the study, 90 per cent could be going undiagnosed, because symptoms are often misattributed to psychological or emotional problems.

"Children who have behaviour problems or are suspected to have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) might actually be suffering from a chronic lack of restorative sleep," he said in a press release announcing the research.

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In their paper, the authors also studied nine-year-old twins with snoring, enlarged tonsils, and daytime sleepiness whose symptoms had previously been disregarded, but were found to have OBS and treated by an ear, nose, and throat specialist. They explain that untreated sleep disorders could cause children developmental problems, as the obstructed breathing associated with OBS forces the body to switch to light sleep from the deep sleep critical for mental and physical restorative processes.

Other symptoms associated with SDB include snoring, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, teeth grinding and jaw clenching, migraines, bedwetting, and irritability - problems parents could easily mistake as having other causes.

Dr. White advises getting kids checked out young - and that parents whose infants have latching problems during breastfeeding, or who struggle to learn to speak should be especially wary, as these could be caused by jaw structure problems also associated with sleep apnoea.

"Once we identify sleep apnoea, treatment is usually very effective," he added. "The challenge is catching it early enough. The early years are critical for brain development, so it's essential that this condition is on our radar."

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