No More Sleepless Nights


Problem: Your bedroom door is closed, but you can still hear your child's loud snoring. He also seems to be gasping for air sometimes.

Likely diagnosis: Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes disordered breathing, often because of enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Sleep apnea -- characterized by Darth Vader-like mouth breathing, gasping, heavy snoring, and restless, sweaty sleep -- can momentarily arouse your child 20 to 30 times a night, even though he isn't aware of it. Getting poor sleep night after night can cause a child to be out of sorts, cranky, and hyperactive -- and even mis-di-agnosed with ADHD. Another sign of sleep apnea: Your child chews slowly and prefers soft food because swallowing tougher foods, like meat, can be painful if his tonsils are big, says Marcella Bothwell, M.D., a pediatric otolaryngologist at Rady Children's Hospital, in San Diego. Finally, being overweight, which reduces the amount of space in the airway, also increases a child's risk of sleep apnea.

In-the-moment fixes: There's not much that you can do to stop this condition, so if your child has any of the symptoms, talk to your pediatrician.

Long-term solutions: Many kids need to have their tonsils and adenoids removed. Research has found that within the first year after kids with sleep apnea had gotten their tonsils out, they were happier, sleeping better, and less hyperactive than before the surgery. If your child has large tonsils or most of the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, your pediatrician may recommend surgery right away.

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