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Sleep-Disordered Breathing and Doctor-Parent Communication

What does a good night’s sleep look and sound like? For parents, especially those of young children, that is not as simple a question as it might seem.

Sleep difficulties in adults have been linked to a host of medical conditions and problems, including psychiatric problems and heart disease. And as adults we all know what snoring, restlessness and possible sleep apnea look and sound like.

But a new study by Karen Bonuck, Ph.D., professor of family and social medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein, explains that proper sleep is especially critical for young children.

The study followed more than 11,000 children, as young as six months old, for more than six years. It found that young children with sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) are prone to developing behavioral difficulties such as hyperactivity and aggressiveness, as well as emotional symptoms and problems with peer relationships.

“Although snoring and apnea are relatively common in children, pediatricians and family physicians do not routinely check for sleep-disordered breathing,” says Dr. Bonuck. “In many cases, the doctor will simply ask parents, ‘How is your child sleeping?’ Instead, physicians need to specifically ask parents whether their children are experiencing one or more of the symptoms—snoring, mouth breathing or apnea—of SDB.”

How should doctors and parents address this issue? In this video, Dr. Bonuck demonstrates what SDB sounds like, and explains what parents should do if they suspect breathing abnormalities in their children.

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