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Children’s sleep disorders often masked as behavior control problems
But at home, it’s been quite different. About a year ago, when the usually energetic Kyle began letting household chores slip, and the negative interaction he had with the rest of the family increased, his mother, Tracy, grew even more concerned. Attributing Kyle’s exhaustion and fatigue to an overloaded schedule and high-achieving mode, she was hopeful that Kyle was simply in a phase that he would outgrow.
However, as the months went on and Kyle’s fatigue worsened, requiring
“inordinate amounts of sleep,”
After consulting with Kyle’s physician, David Gray, MD,
“Kyle had lifelong sleep issues so it didn’t come as any surprise to
me that his doctor suspected a sleep disorder right away,”
After undergoing a sleep study in a special hospital suite where sensors recorded his sleep cycles over a 20-hour time period, Kyle was diagnosed with narcolepsy by Peter Jerome, MD, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist who serves as Director of the CHN Sleep Disorders Center.
According to Dr. Jerome, narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that involves the body's central nervous system, which carries messages from the brain to other parts of the body. For people with narcolepsy, the messages about when to sleep and when to be awake sometimes hit roadblocks or detours and arrive in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is why someone who has narcolepsy may fall asleep while eating dinner or engaged in social activities - or at times when he or she wants to be awake.
For children diagnosed with narcolepsy, their bodies may be alert during key time periods, like when at school or game practice. But when they return to home, exhaustion sets in causing conflicts with parents and siblings when daily responsibilities start to slide.
“Although we tend to associate sleep disorders with adults, children can suffer from many of the same sleep problems, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea,” Dr. Jerome said. “The trouble is that the symptoms of poor sleep are typically masked as behavioral problems or learning disorders, so we try to treat them psychologically rather than medically. Unfortunately, the medical condition isn’t recognized or treated and those behaviors continue because behavior modification isn’t the right answer.”
Treating narcolepsy and other sleep disorders can involve the simple use of medication and/or specialized breathing devices, or in severe cases, surgical procedures to remove the tonsils or adenoids, which are common contributors to sleep disorders in children. In Kyle’s case, Dr. Jerome recommended a treatment program consisting of daily medication, which made an immediate noticeable difference.
His mom is just relieved the situation is now under control.
“It’s just marvelous to see the progress Kyle has made; being treated
has really opened up a whole new world for us,”
Patients wishing to receive more medical
information about their sleeping troubles are encouraged to speak with their
regular physician, who may then refer them to the
Community Health Network is a continuum
of healthcare services which includes