Growing number of children are having problems sleeping


Sleep seems like it should be such an easy and natural state, but more and more children are having trouble getting their rest. Experts agree that electronic devices are often to blame for that deficit, but sometimes there is an underlying medical problem.

In this week's Health Watch report we take you to a local sleep clinic designed especially for pediatric patients.

Since he was a preschooler, 9-year-old Ty Mitchell has had major sleep problems. Up and down, down and up - that was their families sleep pattern for a long time. Everyone was exhausted.

"It's like we were playing a tennis match all night and it was wearing me out," laughed his mom, Latana Bonner.

Bonner said Ty's inability to sleep left the entire family dragging and grumpy.

"During that time I was also going to school full time on line at night," she added.

Sleep specialist Dr. Sonia Smith was already treating Ty for allergy problems and asthma. She ordered a sleep study on the then 4-year-old.

"Children who don't sleep, it's never a normal thing. Every child should get restful, restorative sleep at night," Smith explained.

Smith said children who have trouble falling asleep, or snores excessively, need a sleep study. Academic and behavioral problems are also an indicator that there could be sleep issues.

"Some kids, when they're tired, they actually rev their engines up and they act as if they're having ADHD symptoms, and it's not because they have ADHD, it's because they are tired," she said.

Smith underlined that chronically sleepy children often appear depressed or anxious. Patients are assessed physically and sleep habits are reviewed during an office visit.

They then spend the night in her on-sight sleep lab, parents are always with their children. The patients are monitored through the night by a technician.

Smith said sometimes getting sleep habits back on track is as simple as removing a bedroom television set and shutting down screens well before the bedtime hour.

Smith emphasized, "It's huge. It's huge and I think some families are kinda hesitant to do that, but I think you have to make a choice."

For Ty, his sleep problems were more complex. Smith diagnosed him with hypersomnia, along with sleep apnea.

Medication has helped tremendously and Smith still sees Ty regularly to monitor his progress. She shares every possible sleep tip with Ty and his mother.

Her latest natural tactic is a bedtime yoga-themed book aimed at children. It features calming poses kids can easily do right before bedtime to relax them for a restful slumber.

These days Ty is sleepy and his mom is happy.

"It's a whole lot better at night," she smiled. "He is absolutely doing beautifully and he is sleeping at night. He is successful in school."