News Release

February 27, 2009

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Sleep Deprivation – Common Concern in Children

National Sleep Awareness Week March 1 - 8

FARMINGTON, CONN. – It’s estimated that two-thirds of children experience frequent sleep problems, which can negatively impact their performance in school, extracurricular activities, and social relationships. “Whether you have a newborn or a teenager, some kids just can’t sleep and others sleep too much,” says Dr. Daniel McNally, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the UConn Health Center. “Each phase of a child’s life can bring a new sleep pattern but it’s important to realize that good sleep is essential to good health --- no matter what the age.”

Children and adolescents typically need at least nine hours of sleep per night. Sleep promotes alertness, memory and performance---key factors for success in school. Children who get enough sleep are more likely to function better and are less prone to behavioral problems and moodiness.

The Center’s Dr. Jennifer Papa Kanaan has a special interest in treating children and teens and says they are seeing more pediatric patients than ever before. “Children and adults behave differently as a result of sleepiness,” says Kanaan. “Adults usually become sluggish when tired while children tend to overcompensate and speed up.”

Children with sleep problems are more likely to be inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive, and display oppositional behaviors. For this reason, sleep deprivation is sometimes confused with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. For some ADHD children, studies have found treating sleep problems may be enough to eliminate attention and hyperactivity issues.

Experts from the Sleep Disorders Center often counsel parents on their children’s sleep patterns from infancy through adolescence, including issues such as nightmares in young children and adolescents who sleep too much or at the wrong time. “Children suffer from some of the same sleep disorders as adults,” explains Kanaan. “For instance, sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which there are pauses in breathing during sleep.” Children with sleep apnea may snore loudly, experience restless sleep and be sleepy during the day. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids, allergies, weight problems and other medical problems may contribute to sleep apnea.

Children may also be diagnosed with narcolepsy. It’s often first noticed in puberty, but may occur as early as ten years of age. Children with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable "sleep attacks," even when they get enough sleep.

There are often simple solutions to solving a child’s sleep problems. “You need to make sure they have good sleeping habits and follow a nightly routine,” says McNally. “A bedtime ritual makes it easier for your child to relax, fall asleep and sleep through the night.” You should also make bedtime a positive and relaxing experience without TV or videos. Studies have found TV viewing prior to bed can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Save your child's favorite relaxing, non-stimulating activities until last and have them occur in the child's bedroom. If your child continues to have sleep problems and is very tired during the day, you should consult with your child’s physician and discuss whether a comprehensive sleep evaluation is needed.

UConn’s multidisciplinary Sleep Disorders Center offers state-of-the-art care to evaluate and treat sleep disorders and is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Patients receive a comprehensive sleep evaluation with diagnostic equipment in a restful atmosphere.

National Sleep Awareness Week®, which takes place March 1-8, is a public education, information, and awareness campaign that coincides with the return of Daylight Saving Time, the annual "springing forward" of clocks that can cause Americans to lose an hour of sleep.

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