The most important thing that you can do before you begin any sleep coaching with your child is to work with your doctor to rule out any medical reasons for his or her sleep disruptions.
It may seem obvious, but you shouldn’t treat a child’s sleep behaviorally before a doctor treats it medically. Doing so can greatly exacerbate the situation. So let’s review some of the most common medical conditions, their symptoms and courses of treatment.
Condition: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is when there is airflow obstruction during sleep
Symptoms: snoring, sweating, restlessness, unusual sleep positions and/or distending the neck to improve air flow
Common course of treatment: surgery to remove adenoids and tonsils
Condition: Reflux is when a child’s stomach acid comes back up the esophagus into the throat, causing swelling and difficulty breathing
Symptoms: crying at night, restlessness, trouble breathing and feeding difficulties
Common course of treatment: anti-reflux medication
Condition: Asthma can inflame a child’s airway passage and make it harder to breathe
Symptoms: can run from extreme, coughing and wheezing, to almost unnoticeable, a slight increase in breaths per minute
Common course of treatment: nasal steroids and histamines to shrink the nasal passages
Medical sleep disturbances (especially breathing problems, given the small size of a child’s nose and airway) are more common than you may think. However, if left undiagnosed, these conditions—and the resulting loss of sleep–could have long-term effects on your child. Talk to your doctor if you suspect that your child has any of these conditions.
Source: Lewis Kass, MD