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Beating the Bedtime Blues

New center focuses on pediatric sleep disorders

May 2006

by Natalie Gutierrez

Most children look forward to bedtime stories and sweet dreams when nighttime rolls around. But for some kids, Mr. Sandman slips by without sprinkling sleep into their weary eyes.

Pediatric sleep experts report that 25 percent of children in the United States experience some type of sleep disorder. Problems can include sleepwalking, insomnia, narcolepsy, snoring, sleep apnea and others. When children don’t get the required eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, their daytime routines can turn into real-life nightmares.

Thanks to generous funding, staff support and clinic space provided by CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health Care, the Health Science Center has established San Antonio’s first-ever sleep center dedicated solely to the research and treatment of pediatric sleep disorders. The Pediatric Sleep Center officially opened its doors to patients April 20. Karen Hentschel-Franks, D.O., a pediatric pulmonologist and an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the Health Science Center, is the center’s medical director.

"Many people think sleep disorders only affect adults and the elderly. But children are just as susceptible," Dr. Hentschel-Franks said. "The understanding and treatment of pediatric sleep disorders is fairly new. Parents and pediatricians often aren’t aware of the signs and symptoms, so sleep disorders in children can go unnoticed. When not treated, a child’s lack of sleep can cause behavioral problems, memory lapses and poor concentration in school. Sleep-deprived teens who drive are at higher risk for automobile accidents. Long-term side effects can range from pulmonary hypertension to heart disease, high blood pressure and depression."

The Pediatric Sleep Center features four rooms equipped with state-of-the-art systems that monitor a child’s breathing, heart rate and body movements during sleep. Each room provides a bed for the child and a parent to spend a night. Surveillance cameras in each room allow sleep technicians to effectively evaluate the child’s sleep patterns. The clinic is available to children ages newborn to 18.

"Our goal is to diagnose sleep disorders in children as early as possible before they lead to more serious health problems," Dr. Hentschel-Franks said.

With the outstanding support of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health Care, San Antonians can rest easy knowing they’ll have healthier children and happier families.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Patty Gibson, Pediatric Sleep Center manager, at (210) 704-2091.

Suspicious symptoms

• A newborn or infant is extremely and consistently fussy
• A child is having problems breathing or breathing is noisy
• A child snores, especially if snoring is loud
• Unusual nighttime awakenings
• Difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep
• Daytime sleepiness and/or behavioral problems

Source: The National Sleep Foundation

Sleep stealers

Insomnia occurs when a child complains of difficulty falling asleep, remaining asleep and/or early morning awakenings. Insomnia can be caused by stress, pain, or a medical or psychiatric condition.

Restless Legs Syndrome is a movement disorder that includes uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings (e.g. crawly, tingly or itchy sensation) in the legs, causing an overwhelming urge to move.

Sleepwalking is experienced by as many as 40 percent of children, usually between ages 3 and 7. Sleepwalking usually occurs an hour or two after sleep onset and may last five to 20 minutes.

Snoring occurs when partial blockage in the airway causes vibration in the back of the throat. Snoring can be caused by nasal congestion, enlarged adenoids or tonsils that block the airway. Some children who snore may have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea occurs when snoring is loud and the child is having difficulty breathing. It may be a sign of a more serious disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Blocked airway passages cause repeated arousals from sleep. Sleep apnea has been associated with daytime sleepiness, academic problems and hyperactivity.

Source: The National Sleep Foundation


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Updated 12/11/14