Your kid’s restless sleep could be a sign of trouble
  • Sunday, June 16, 2019
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Features | News

Your kid’s restless sleep could be a sign of trouble

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

QUESTION: My 8-year-old heads to bed at a good hour but complains of being tired all the time. I’ve noticed that he thrashes around during the night — I can tell by the way the covers get all knotted up.

Any theories about what’s going on? — Leslie J., Lafayette, Ind.

ANSWER: Your child may be contending with sleep disordered breathing, or SDB. We often think of SDB and obstructive sleep apnea, its most common form, as problems that affect adults who are obese, smoke, drink too much or have diabetes. But a new study on SDB in children makes it clear that kids can be affected, too, and there are potentially lifelong consequences if left untreated.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, up to 15% of kids struggle with some form of SDB, but 90 percent might go undiagnosed. That means nightly, many kids are repeatedly roused from deep sleep, during which neurocognitive development, cellular regeneration, and tissue and bone growth occur. This interferes with brain development and memory formation, and it can trigger emotional and behavioral problems.

Symptoms of SDB in children include (as expected) snoring and restless sleep, but bed-wetting, migraine headaches, jaw clenching and teeth grinding are potential signs as well. One often-overlooked trigger, says the study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, is early-in-life “dysfunctional craniofacial development,” which causes poor jaw structure and airway problems.

Treatment: Removing tonsils and adenoids can improve breathing. If that doesn’t help, some children benefit from being fitted with a maxillary expander, an adjustable brace temporarily placed across the roof of the mouth to increase the volume of the nasal cavity and improve breathing.

Unfortunately, unlike you, Leslie, too many parents overlook a child’s erratic sleep patterns. Parents these days often fail to notice that their child is obese. Obesity can contribute to disordered breathing.

So check for signs. If they’re present, consult your pediatrician and, if needed, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist, sleep specialist and a dentist trained in craniofacial development. A child’s future health and happiness depend on it!

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