Is your child getting enough sleep?

Pediatric sleep disorders can lead to behavior problems, depression, obesity
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Joey Baker had difficulty breathing while he slept, which caused him a restless night of waking up and falling back to sleep again.

“I kept waking up in the night, every hour,” he said. “At school, I was pretty much sitting and listening and I’d start to get really tired. Now I feel way better.”

The 11-year-old is a sixth grader at Glen Edwards Middle School in Lincoln, and although he kept his grades up despite his problem sleeping, he often struggled to concentrate when reading, his mom Lisa Baker said.

Joey found help through Sutter Roseville Medical Center’s pediatric sleep disorder program. Doctors removed his tonsils and adenoids in November to clear up his breathing passageway, so now he sleeps through the night.

A good night’s rest is not just about feeling refreshed come morning. Poor sleeping among kids and teenagers can lead to behavioral problems, hyperactivity, depression, loss of appetite, obesity and low academic achievement.

“There are a lot of sleep problems that don’t get the attention they need,” said Dr. Amer Khan, a pediatric neurologist who leads Sutter Roseville’s sleep disorder program.

The program, developed over the past few years, treats a full spectrum of problems in patients from birth to 18 years old. Sutter launched the area’s first comprehensive program for pediatric sleep disorders in May 2010.

“If (children) don’t sleep well, it affects them in every possible way, in what they do and how their body works,” Khan said.

There are certain rules to follow for quality sleep, based on the way the body has been designed to function. Breaking those rules — either because of a medical disorder or bad habits — causes people to suffer, he said.

Snoring a medical problem

For many adults with sleep disorders, their problems began in early childhood. These include trouble falling asleep at night, trouble waking up in the morning, nightmares, sleep walking, sleep apnea and narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy causes a person to fall asleep uncontrollably. This problem is usually missed until an accident occurs, such as at work or while driving, Khan said. Narcolepsy typically develops when a person is between 8 and 16 years old.

Sleep apnea is often misunderstood — many people believe the biggest symptom is a patient stops breathing while sleeping. But actually, the main sign is snoring — and snoring isn’t normal, Khan said.

“Families don’t realize that snoring is a real medical problem,” he said.

Many children with sleep apnea are misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or attention deficit disorder. These kids are given stimulants for ADHD and ADD, which compound the problem.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder. An estimated 50 to 70 million adults and children in the United States have sleep apnea, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorder affects 4 percent of all kids, which means in an elementary school of 500 students, 20 kids suffer from sleep apnea.

Khan regularly sees adult patients who’ve suffered from sleep apnea since childhood but weren’t diagnosed until their spouses complained of snoring. If untreated, sleep apnea poses a life-long problem.

‘Make sleep a priority’

Kathie Sinor knows firsthand about the affects of poor sleep on teenagers as a health educator at Granite Bay High School. She teaches a unit on sleep.

“The vast majority of teens are not getting enough sleep,” Sinor said. “They should be getting a minimum of nine to 10 hours. The majority get six hours.”

Many students spread themselves too thin, doing homework, participating in extra-curricular activities and playing sports, so they end up going to sleep late. Or, they go to their bedroom and watch television or play on the computer, which has been shown to inhibit sleep.

Teenagers’ bodies may not be ready to shut down early, but with some high schools starting at 7:45 a.m., they must find ways to do so, Sinor said. Methods include eliminating caffeine, not exercising close to bedtime and practicing relaxation techniques.

Signs of sleep deprivation among teenagers include dropping grades, use of energy drinks to stay awake, grumpiness, depression, lack of ability to focus and aggressiveness.

“People, adults, too, are not aware of the importance of good sleep,” Sinor said. “You have to make sleep a priority.”

Sutter Roseville made sleep a priority with its Sutter Sleep Disorders Center, used to perform tests and overnight sleep studies on both pediatric and adult patients. The lab typically sees one or two kids a night, seven days a week.

The room is monitored with infrared cameras and wires are attached to the patient that record breathing and oxygen levels, leg movements, heart rate and more. Technicians monitor the patient and collected information is reviewed by a doctor the following day.

Joey spent a night at the sleep center and, although he was uncomfortable with all those wires, says he’s happy to now be able to sleep through the night.

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.


Sutter Roseville Medical Center presents “Sleep for Life”
Sleep program for teens. Learn why sleep is needed, common behaviors that prevent restorative sleep, skills to support healthy sleep
When: 4 – 5 p.m. Tuesdays
Where: Conference room 8, second floor, Sutter Roseville Medical Center, 1 Medical Plaza in Roseville
Info: To register, visit, call (916) 773-8711 or email Cindy Reynolds at