MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sleep disorders are going untreated and under-reported among children who have cerebral palsy (CP), according to a study.

The recently published study from Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare found that children who have CP are more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea – especially if the CP is severe or combined with epilepsy.

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However, sleep disorders are going untreated and underdiagnosed among those with CP, the study said. According to Dr. John Garcia, that’s a problem because it results in fewer gains in treatments, and it increases the chances of seizures and contract respiratory illnesses.

“This is a vulnerable population to begin with, so the stakes are higher,” Garcia said. “Obstructive sleep disorders make life really tough for anybody, but even more so for kids who have CP.”

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The study also found that children with CP are more likely to be accurately diagnosed with a sleep disorder if they are routinely screened with a questionnaire.

“Anyone who has CP should be screened for a sleep disorder – it should be standard practice,” Garcia said. “We can improve quality of life for our patients.”

Treatment once diagnosed includes an upper airway surgery or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure device. After treatment, health officials say that patients see improvements such as fewer seizures, increased mobility and better health.

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Gillette Children’s is located on 200 University Ave. E. in St. Paul.