Young and restless: children who suffer from sleeping disorders

Does your child have trouble focusing in school?

Maybe they can’t sit still… or just the opposite, they spend the day in a zombie-like state?

They may be suffering from a sleep disorder.

The sound of snoring coming from her daughter’s room was the first sign for Erika Damberville that something just wasn’t right.

She ended up sleeping next to her three-year-old every night in their Miami home, watching over her like a hawk.

That’s when she realized her daughter Yesenia would stop breathing during the night!

“I would shake her, and then she would breath in. She would go ‘Ahhhhh’,” Erika gasped, demonstrating the sound.

Doctors found Yesenia had sleep apnea – a potentially serious medical condition usually connected to adults who have a temporary stoppage of breathing during sleep.

More than a million kids in America are dealing with sleep apnea.

And, we found many of them are dealing with another startling problem as well.

Their sleep apnea is misdiagnosed as a much more common childhood condition.

Dr. Judith Owens, Director of Sleep Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, says the problem shows up in a way you might not expect.

“In contrast to adults, children with sleep apnea for the most part aren’t sleepy.”

Instead, the symptoms for kids may look to doctors and educators like classic ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“So they had very similar presenting problems,” she explains.

“They had behavior issues, they had hyperactivity, they had problems with impulse control, they were inattentive and oftentimes failing in school.”

Experts say as many as 25% of kids with sleep apnea are misdiagnosed with ADHD.

For parents, Dr. Owens says there are clues.

“First of all, pay attention to how your child is sleeping. And probably the most common symptom of sleep apnea in children, as in adults, is loud nightly snoring.”

It’s important to know if a child has sleep apnea because there can be serious medical issues that need to be addressed.

Yesenia had to have surgery to improve her breathing, and now she’s happy and healthy.

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