Do you know anyone with sleep apnea? Chances are, you do. They might not even know it themselves. My father-in-law had it. We used to always pick at him for snoring. He would fall asleep in almost every church service. While everyone else would gather around and talk after holiday meals, he would often either go to bed for a nap or end up falling asleep in a chair.
Fast forward to my life now. I have a fifteen year old son. His room is on the other side of the house. Of course, I’ve heard his brothers complain that he snores. And his fellow roommates during this past summer at camp. I figured it was allergies.
He will go in his room to finish an assignment on his own. And fall asleep.
Everyone else will go outside playing sports. He is tired.
We go on a road trip. He sleeps at least half of the ride.
He struggles with his schoolwork. Honestly, I thought he was being lazy.
This past summer, we were on vacation. There were more people than beds so we both volunteered to sleep on the recliners in the living room. And that’s when I got a front row seat to his sleeping habits. Yes, the snoring was bad. But what was more bothersome was seeing him thrash around in his sleep. And hearing him stop breathing. And then noticing how it effected him during the day. He was exhausted. Not lazy. He would try to have fun with the rest of his. But he just couldn’t keep up.
When we returned home, I started what became a long process of having my son checked for sleep apnea. Now, after a few months, we finally had the sleep study. We checked in at 8pm and was led to a room that resembled a motel room – two beds, a dresser, a TV and a bathroom. Then he got wired up. Wires were connected to every part of his head – all in his hair for each section of his brain, across his forehead, behind his ears, under his nose, on his throat. Even on his legs. They monitored his heart, his oxygen level, even the temperature of the air he inhaled and exhaled. The sleep tech was amazing. He helped put my son at ease and answered my zillion questions. (What can I say? Anything to do how the brain works fascinates me.)
Officially, we will get the results from the doctor next month. Unofficially though, the sleep tech told me that my son was his most challenging case yet. Most people actually get a little bit of sleep before the struggle begins. My son started within the first hour. He stopped breathing fifty times in an hour. Although his oxygen level did not drop dangerously low (the duration wasn’t very long between him starting to breath again, up to twenty seconds), his sleep was constantly interrupted. Then the tech put the CPAP on (that was some adjusting!!) but when it was all said and done, my son got two hours of sleep. Two hours of REM might be something that most people take for granted, but I gotta tell you, I saw a world of difference this morning alone.
October 6 – 13, 2014 has been designated Sleep Awareness Week. So, here’s what I want you to be aware of:
- Most sleep apnea victims remain undiagnosed.
- Sleep apnea can attribute heart attacks, strokes, and more. (Our sleep tech even said diabetes!!)
- There are three types of sleep apnea – obstructive (caused by soft tissue), central (involves the central nervous system) and complex (a combination of the two).
- Symptoms include lack of concentration, headaches, dry mouth, mood swings and more.
- Sleep apnea in children can also include night terrors, bed wetting, waking up several times during night, heavy perspiration while sleeping, learning problems, behavior disorders. (Note: My daughter also suffered from sleep apnea. She had enlarged tonsils and they would collapse when she was in bed, blocking off her airways. When she was six years old, she was diagnosed and and had her tonsils removed…and finally started sleeping through the night.)
Treatment methods depend on the type of sleep apnea but can include a CPAP and/or adenotonsillectomy. I will update more once we receive an official diagnosis and what will be our course of treatment. If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, consult a physician. I am not a doctor. Nor have I ever played one on TV. I am just a mother. A mother who insisted that someone hear me. A mother of a child with sleep apnea has written abook from her six year old son’s perspective on wearing a CPAP to help other children. (affiliate link)
Update: I have just been made aware of a company that has developed a urine test called Easy Peezy Pee Test that has a 96.5% accuracy rate in testing for Sleep Apnea. This would eliminate the need for costly and intimidating overnight stays in a lab. Please let’s help this company out. They need to raise $100,000. I imagine so many times it is less expensive to just diagnose a child with ADHD and medicate them than to go through the hassle of trying to get a sleep study done but why medicate when that’s not the problem??
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