Sleep and Your Growing Child

When you bring your baby home from the hospital, one of the most common pieces of advice given is “Sleep when your baby sleeps.” That can be a hard thing to live up to since newborns sleep round the clock, and you, as much as you might like to sleep, have the responsibilities of adulthood calling you. And as all moms know, even though the baby sleeps, the laundry and the dishes never do.

As your little one grows and begins a more normalized wake/sleep pattern, he will still be sleeping for more than 12 hours per day total, including his nap hours. Gradually, the length of sleep decreases until you find yourself with a teenager who gets 8 hours overnight and wants to play catch up on the weekends.

More Than Rest

Sleep is a biological imperative for all humans. It acts as the great reset button for your nervous system, heart and lungs, and most importantly, your brain.

But for children, adequate sleep is the support structure that affects mental, physical, and emotional growth. The ability to learn, remember, pay attention, and control emotion are all underscored by getting enough sleep. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are prone to obesity, ADD/ADHD, and a host of other problems.

Occasionally, about 3-5% of the time, a child won’t get enough sleep, regardless of bed and nap times. They wake up briefly, unknowingly, and go back to sleep, but never get too deep before waking again. Some of these children have enlarged tonsils or adenoids, causing blockage to the airway; a tonsillectomy can alleviate the problem. In other cases, the child needs to have non-surgical treatment.

How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea In Children?

 Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is typically treated the same in children as in adults.  Most sleep physicians will prescribe a CPAP or Continuous Positive Air Pressure machine for kids and grown-ups alike. While this is a good, proven treatment, it relies on the compliance of the patient. If many adults simply can’t tolerate the mask on when they sleep, it may not be reasonable to expect a child with lower impulse control to do the same.

Oral Appliances Offer An Alternative

Oral Appliances have become more accepted as a primary treatment for OSA in adults.  They are also an up and coming treatment for children, especially those with narrow jaws or a drastic overbite. Oral sleep appliances are more comfortable and more familiar to children, reminiscent of a retainer or sports guard. Since continual use of either the CPAP or oral appliance is necessary for successful treatment, it’s imperative to choose the course that your child will be comfortable with.

If you are in the position of finding the best treatment for your child, call the Raleigh office for a consultation. Dr. Agarwal of Raleigh Dental Arts is one of the top dentists treating OSA with oral appliances. He has an excellent rapport with children and is able to help them learn to successfully use their appliance for a great night’s sleep.

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