18-month-old Haley Rivera has not slept a whole night through since her birth. She has also never slept more than three hours at a time, according to her mother Jennifer Stella. Staying up with her, Haley’s parents are similarly sleep-deprived.
“One night when she was maybe 2 weeks old, it was 3 o’clock in the morning, and she had not slept at all. What newborn doesn’t sleep most of the day?” Stella said.
After noticing that Haley would snore and wake up at times rasping for air, the Bronx mother of 3 brought her to pediatric pulmonologist and sleep physician Dr. Haviva Veler, the director of Weill Cornell’s Pediatric Sleep Center at New York-Presbyterian’s Komansky Center for Children’s Health. Veler sees ten new children every week with sleep problems ranging from sleep apnea to seizures.
“About 10% of children snore, but if it is loud and happens more than three times a week, sleep apnea may be the culprit." Veler said.
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person experiences abnormal pauses in breathing or abnormally low breathing during sleep. It is commonly caused by an obstruction in the upper airway. In adults, sleep apnea is often caused by obesity, but in children the cause is typically enlarged tonsils and adenoids that shrink as they age.
If breathing stops for several seconds through out the night, organs get less oxygen and the child wakes up. Over time this pattern can lead to heart rhythm irregularities, diabetes, hyperactivity, high blood pressure and learning problems.
“The most important message I want to give to parents is snoring isn’t just a funny noise, it’s serious if persistent,” Veler said.
Haley stayed overnight at the sleep center with her mother in a bed beside her crib, while Veler in the next room monitored her breathing, heart rate, oxygen levels, brain waves, and counting each episode in which she held her breath. Results showed that Haley has a mild case of sleep apnea, holding her breath 1.8 times per hour, but that she was waking up for behavioral reasons rather than medical ones.
Veler suggested that pacifiers be placed around Haley’s crib so that when she wakes up she can reach one, pacify herself and, hopefully, drop back off to sleep. She also recommended an ear, nose, and throat specialist as well as a sleep psychologist. Knowing that the insomnia is behavioral, Haley’s parents are hopeful they will find relief. “When I see newborns and toddlers soundly asleep in their strollers, I think wow, Haley never slept like that,” said Haley’s father Edgar Rivera.
Source: NY Daily News