February 6th, 2004

Contact:      Jennifer Kurczek
      Community Relations Director

      (920)361-5481 or jkurczek@partnershealth.org



For immediate release


Children’s sleep disorders often masked as behavior control problems


(BERLIN)—From the outside looking in, Kyle Brown is like many active 13-year-olds. The Ripon teenager strives to achieve good grades, plays a variety of sports, including basketball, and serves as a role model for his three younger siblings.


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,” Tracy knew she needed some outside advice. “Kyle has always been pretty ‘zippy’ and productive, especially when it comes to school and sports,” Tracy said. “He was always been extremely obstinate at home; I knew something wasn’t right and I sought the professional opinion of his doctor.”


After consulting with Kyle’s physician, David Gray, MD, Tracy’s concerns were confirmed. Dr. Gray and Tracy suspected that Kyle’s changing energy-levels at home were not behavioral in nature, but rather that he may be experiencing a clinical sleeping condition. He referred his patient to the CHN Sleep Disorders Center at Berlin Memorial Hospital for further testing.


“Kyle had lifelong sleep issues so it didn’t come as any surprise to me that his doctor suspected a sleep disorder right away,” Tracy said. “But we were certain that it was sleep apnea, so we were surprised when a different diagnosis came back after his sleep study.”


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,” Tracy said. “There is such a misperception that people with narcolepsy or other sleeping difficulties are just lazy and unmotivated. I’d venture to say there are probably a lot of people similar to Kyle out there that have a true medical condition that needs to be addressed. They should definitely consider undergoing a sleep study and getting the right course of treatment so they can enjoy a better quality of life.”


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 CHN Sleep Disorders Center. More information is available by calling the CHN Sleep Disorders Center at (920)361-5561.


Community Health Network is a continuum of healthcare services which includes Berlin Memorial Hospital, Juliette Manor, Juliette Terrace, Partners Family Pharmacy, CHN Rehabilitation and Occupational Health, and the CHN Medical Group, consisting of more than 110 multi-specialty providers serving nearly 20 community clinics. Community Health Network is further affiliated with Wild Rose Community Memorial Hospital.