Interrupted sleep patterns that lead to sleep deprivation are usually dismissed as an annoyance for many adults. Rarely do we think of problems sleeping as an illness, a serious health hazard, or even a potential cause of death. Moreover, sleep disruptions with kids are sometimes considered a necessary evil, a rite of passage and an inevitable part of “bringing up baby.” But if taken to extremes, these can become serious and life threatening.
Absurd as it might sound at first, babies could need sleep monitoring and treatment. Children are not just miniature adults with the same problems in a smaller size. Your sleepless baby might actually be in need of medical intervention, whether due to a nervous, respiratory, or even digestive condition.
Some babies are more prone to sleep disorders than others. It is important to be aware of these conditions, recognize them in your own baby, and take appropriate action as necessary.
Especially as unhealthy sleep habits in infancy can be self-perpetuating, and follow one into childhood, adolescence and adulthood, posing a life-long danger to health.
Start with a Sensible Nighttime Routine
If your new baby is hard to put to bed, it could be just reacting to the natural difficulty of adjusting to life outside the womb. Before assuming the worst, try setting a calming nighttime routine for your child.
A consistent pattern might include a warm bath, cuddles, some non-strenuous playtime, story-time, or lullabies. This should be for a firmly enforced, limited time each night, and be applied to daytime naps as well.
Children’s sleep requirements are very different from adults. But a six-month-old baby can sleep for nine hours at night. Children’s sleep patterns vary, but most children do have the ability to sleep longer and ultimately through the night, as they grow older.
Your Baby’s Sleeplessness Could be a Cause for Concern.
If your baby suffers more than occasional bad nights, the causes can be mild or more serious. Respiratory infections, acid reflux, gas or other tummy discomfort, and teething will keep baby awake. Hunger, over-stimulation during the day, physical discomfort, or feeling cold, may all play a part in baby’s fussiness.
While these are natural and common problems, if not resolved, infants can develop sleep issues that can seriously endanger their health and wellbeing.
Which Babies Should be Tested
There are certain circumstances in which a pediatric sleep specialist should definitely evaluate a child:
- Siblings of a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) victim
- Preterm babies of 28 weeks gestation.
- Apparent Life-Threatening Events or (ALTE)
- Low heart rate leading to “blue spells”
- A gastro esophageal reflux (GERD) diagnosis
Clues to Potential Infant Sleep Disorders
- Heavy snoring or frequent pauses in breathing
- Bed wetting into early childhood
- Hyperactivity (ADHD)
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep – Insomnia
- Excessive Daytime Sleepiness-EDS
- Restlessness, mood swings or aggression
- Prolonged, unexplained sleeplessness, nightmares or night terrors
- Poor growth and progress
At the Gingras Sleep Medicine Center in Charlotte, NC, Dr. Jeannine Gingras covers the entire spectrum of infant and pediatric sleep disorders.
She practices sleep medicine exclusively, and is eminently qualified in pediatric sleep evaluations. Her board certifications include:
- Pediatric sleep medicine from the American Board of Pediatrics with a sub-specialty certificate in sleep medicine.
- Neonatal/perinatal medicine from the American Board of Pediatrics with a sub-specialty certificate in neonatal/perinatal medicine)
At her two pediatric sleep programs and Infant Sleep Apnea Center, Dr. Gingras has evaluated innumerable preterm and term infants for apnea of prematurity, apnea of infancy, and SIDS home monitoring.
Diagnostic Testing for Sleep Disorders
Dr. Gingras conducts a variety of diagnostic tests at her Infant Sleep Center. She will determine the best testing method for your baby’s treatment.
Baseline Polysomnogram (PSG): The baseline PSG records data on brain waves, breathing, heart rhythm, oxygen content, and body/leg movement while your baby is sleeping.
CPAP Titration Polysomnogram: – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The CPAP titration is an overnight PSG that determines the optimum pressure needed to treat sleep apnea. The sleep technologist will increase the CPAP pressure until all apnea is resolved.
Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) Nap Study: A daytime session with a sleep technologist that desensitizes patients to PAP therapy. The technologist discusses sleep apnea, fits a mask, and helps the patient to acclimate to therapy. This is done prior to CPAP titration for young children who have failed PAP therapy.
Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT): A daytime study of four to five scheduled naps to evaluate for a neurologic etiology of daytime sleepiness. It is typically performed after an overnight PSG.
Maintenance of Wakefulness Test (MWT): A daytime study that tests alertness during the day. Used for narcolepsy and other disorders of sleepiness to determine effectiveness of treatment.
Sleep Study Interpretation
The recorded data at every 30-second epoch of the duration of the study is reviewed. Dr. Gingras will discuss the diagnosis, and recommend treatment and follow-up to determine success of the treatment.
A sleep study is an accurate, scientific, painless and non-invasive way to find out why your baby doesn’t sleep as he or she should. It provides insight and answers into their sleep processes. With the results, Dr. Gingras will develop a plan of treatment to help your baby get the kind of sleep you both want and need.