MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – We often associate snoring and sleep problems with overweight men. But our kids can have trouble sleeping, too. And doctors say it may affect them in more ways than just being tired.
Doctors admit it’s not easy for parents to link behavior issues to sleep.
One Twin Cities family tried several options before turning to the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
“Our daughter Brynn is around 11-years-old,” Brynn’s dad, Dan Owens, said.
A few years ago, the Owens’ energetic and outgoing girl started having trouble in school.
“I was just getting called up for more in class. My teachers were talking to me about it,” Brynn Owens said.
“We noticed in school she was forgetting her homework continuously, and we’d write it down and she would forget. We noticed eye contact in the classroom. She was getting up and down a lot, going to the bathroom,” Dan said.
“And started working her up for ADHD about a year ago after trying all the other alternatives,” mom Trish Owens said.
Brynn was put on medication, but the problems persisted.
“I was confused. I didn’t really get it,” Brynn said.
The Owens were at their wits end.
“We kept getting mad as parents and it was getting aggravating,” Dan said.
“It was very draining and we were trying everything and nothing was helping,” Trish said.
Around that time, Trish’s mom noticed Brynn had trouble breathing while she slept.
“Brynn makes these noises at night. They’re gurgling noises when she was sleeping, and her bed looked like somebody got in a fight in the middle of the night. Everything was everywhere,” Dan said.
So they recorded her while she slept. And what they saw prompted them to turn to the Sleep Center and Dr. Keith Cavanaugh.
“Ultimately, our goal is to see how the child sleeps,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh took an interest in Brynn’s symptoms.
“The children who have issues with hyperactivity can quickly be labeled as ADHD when it may be that their quality, or quantity, of sleep is poor,” Cavanaugh said.
“So, this is one of our sleep rooms. And this is a typical bed set up for our children,” Cavanaugh explained.
“You get in there and then you do all your normal routines before you go to bed, and then set you up with the cords and then you fall asleep,” Brynn Owens said.
“We measure their breathing and we look at their brain waves. And they sleep all night while we videotape them,” Cavanaugh said.
Brynn went through two sleep studies. Cavanaugh quickly discovered she suffered from severe obstructive sleep apnea.
“She had a lot of events where she wasn’t moving air very well.” Cavanaugh said.
In some cases, taking out the tonsils or adenoids is a solution to open the airways for better breathing.
For Brynn, it was a bit more complex. She had surgery to relieve pressure on her brain stem, and the sleep apnea went away.
“Pretty much a two-year process turned into not even a month. A total fix,” Dan said.
And Brynn is back to being Brynn.
“It’s fun because then you know there’s nothing wrong. You can just sleep like a normal kid,” Brynn said.
Cavanaugh estimates up to eight percent of kids have sleep apnea.
If your children snore or have trouble sleeping at night, they might have a problem. Click here to learn how to get help, and about other sleep disorders like insomnia.