Could your child have sleep apnea, narcolepsy?

By Aaron Wische - Senior Executive Producer

HOUSTON - Sleep is the time when the body can rest and rejuvenate. But when kids don't get enough sleep, it sets the stage for a variety of problems, including depression, weight gain and declining school performance.

"They get hyperactive. They are distractable," said Dr. Juan Martinez. "They may be struggling in class. Their grades may be slipping and their teachers may be identifying them as loud and not paying attention."

Jonathan Theodore, 17, almost got kicked out of his performing arts school because he kept falling asleep in class. A sleep study revealed he had narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder that causes someone to suddenly "pass out."

"When it does happen, I feel it coming on, so I know I have to sit down or hold onto something real quick," Theodore said.

Younger children, even babies, may also suffer from sleep apnea. A key warning sign for the condition is snoring.

"We focus on questions like how bad they're snoring (and) how often they're snoring. Are they chronic snorers?" Martinez said.

Enlarged tonsils are typically the cause of pediatric sleep apnea, but it's a problem that can be resolved with surgery.

For Theodore, daily medication is helping ease his bouts of narcolepsy.

"The fact that I'm not falling asleep right now, it's definitely so much better," he said.

Along with snoring and daytime sleepiness, the warning signs of a pediatric sleep disorder include bed-wetting, night sweats and morning headaches. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, a comprehensive sleep study may help get to the root of the problem.

There are several Houston area clinics that diagnose and treat sleep disorders:

http://www.memorialhermann.org/sleep/

http://www.houstonmethodist.org/nineurology.cfm?id=34899

http://www.houstonsleep.net/HTML/Sleep-Centers.htm

http://www.stlukeshouston.com/OurServices/Sleep/SleepCenter/

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