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Sleep Issues in School-aged Children
last updated:
Tue, 3/15/2011 3:33 PM
The connection with daytime behavior and performance

A growing number of studies confirm what parents and teachers have known for generations:  good sleep is vitally important for children.  In the past decade, the field of sleep medicine has made great progress in documenting the important link between a child’s quality and quantity of sleep and daytime function. Pediatric sleep specialists have established beyond doubt that how a child sleeps has tremendous impact on cognitive performance including learning, memory, attentiveness, and organizational skills.

In contrast to adults, children with daytime sleepiness may manifest hyperactivity, fidgety behavior and impulsivity. These problems may cause some parents or teachers to wonder if the child has the Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), when the underlying problem may be inadequate sleep or a sleep disorder.

Examples of common sleep problems in children include insufficient sleep, insomnia (which can be associated with a variety of other issues), obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and medications that affect sleep or daytime alertness. Key observations that may suggest a sleep problem include difficulty awakening the child in the morning, excessive sleepiness or fatigue, irritability or moodiness, especially later in the day as the child becomes sleepy, and difficulty focusing for sustained periods. 

In older children and adolescents, parents are sometimes not aware of sleep issues because the child has not shared this information. Examples include the teenager with insomnia who is surfing the internet, playing video or computer games, or texting for hours after “lights out” time. Many children today are over-scheduled and there is no time left to allow the child to transition from the high-speed activities of the day to a more tranquil time to help prepare for sleep. Caffeine overuse can contribute to insomnia. Habitual snoring, especially when combined with observed pauses in breathing during sleep, suggests obstructive sleep apnea.

When there are concerns about a child’s sleep or daytime alertness, parents should begin by consulting with the child’s primary care provider so that an appropriate evaluation can be performed and treatment begun. In some cases consultation with a sleep medicine specialist may be necessary. As parents and teachers have known for years, children learn and perform best when they sleep well.

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Merrill Wise is a sleep specialist at the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Please call the Sleep Disorders Center for more information at 901.683.0044.

10 Tips for More Sleep
last updated:
Fri, 2/25/2011 2:06 PM

The following ten tips can help you achieve a good night’s sleep and the benefits it provides.

  1. Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule including weekends.
  2. Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or hot tub and then reading a book or listening to soothing music.
  3. Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
  4. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  5. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
  6. Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime.
  7. Exercise regularly. It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
  8. Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate) close to bedtime. It can keep you awake.
  9. Avoid nicotine (e.g. cigarettes, tobacco products). Used close to bedtime, it can lead to poor sleep.
  10. Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

If you have sleep problems note what type of sleep problem is affecting your sleep or if you are sleepy when you wish to be awake and alert. Try these tips and record your sleep and sleep-related activities in a sleep diary.  If problems continue contact the Methodist Sleep Disorders Center for a consultation with a sleep specialist. 

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Jim Donaldson is the supervisor at the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Please call the Sleep Disorders Center for more information at 901.683.0044.

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Would you recognize Narcolepsy?
last updated:
Fri, 10/15/2010 11:45 AM

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder defined by constant sleepiness and a tendency to sleep at inappropriate times. Typically, a person with narcolepsy suffers from sleep attacks as well as continual sleepiness and a feeling of tiredness that is not completely relieved by any amount of sleep. If not recognized and appropriately managed, narcolepsy can drastically and negatively affect the quality of a person’s life. 

Here are some symptoms of narcolepsy that you can watch for:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness - this is usually the first symptom to appear in people who have narcolepsy.

  • Cataplexy - cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone, usually triggered by emotional stimuli such as laughter, surprise, or anger.

  • Hypnogogic hallucinations - during transition from wakefulness to sleep, the patient has bizarre, often frightening dream-like experiences that incorporate his or her real environment.

  • Sleep paralysis – a temporary inability to move during sleep-wake transitions. Sleep paralysis may last for a few seconds to several minutes and may accompany hypnagogic hallucinations.

  • Disturbed nocturnal sleep – waking up repeatedly throughout the night.

  • Leg jerks, nightmares, and restlessness.

Narcolepsy cannot be cured, symptoms can usually be controlled or improved so that suffers experience symptoms less frequently and lead to fairly normal lives. Treatment plans have several parts:  medication, behavior treatment, and management of your environment.

If you feel that you may have Narcolepsy, inform your primary care physician or make an appointment for an evaluation with a Sleep Specialist at the Sleep Disorders Center.

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Jim Donaldson is the supervisor at the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Please call the Sleep Disorders Center for more information at 901.683.0044.

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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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