Pediatric Sleep Disorders Services at Trinitas Regional Medical Center

According to the National Sleep Foundation's 2004 Sleep in America poll, preschoolers (3-5 year-olds and six year-olds in kindergarten) sleep about 10.4 hours a night, while experts recommend 11-13 hours. School-aged children (1st - 5th graders) average 9.5 hours of sleep a night, less than the recommended 10-11 hours for this age group. These new data look at how sleep impacts children in their school setting.

"A key finding in the poll is that children sleep less than experts recommend. One of the reasons why they are not getting enough sleep is becoming clear -- children are simply going to bed too late for the time they must awaken in the morning," says Jodi Mindell, PhD, an NSF director and chair of the 2004 poll task force.

The poll finds an association between the number of hours children sleep and their behavior in school. Children who sleep less are twice as likely to have behavior problems in school than those who sleep more (17% vs. 8%). In addition, the poll shows that the more children sleep, the more likely they are to participate in activities outside the school setting such as scouts, sports, music lessons, etc., either after school or on weekends.

A child who snores or experiences excessive daytime sleepiness may also display characteristics suggestive of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies have demonstrated that more than one quarter of children with mild symptoms suggestive of ADHD may actually suffer from sleep apnea, obstruction created by snoring leading to periodic cessation of breathing.

Untreated sleep problems may lead to emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders. It can also lead to depression due to excessive sleepiness. Evaluation of ADHD should include questioning sleep patterns and symptoms. The Sleep Disorders Center at Trinitas Regional Medical Center is equipped to answer pediatric sleep questions and test for sleep disorders with state of the art equipment specially suited to this age group.

"Sleep is an irreplaceable resource for a child's health and overall development," says Richard L. Gelula, NSF's chief executive officer. "When children get sufficient sleep, it enhances their ability to not only participate in, but to enjoy and even excel in academic, extracurricular and community activities."

"As the new school year approaches, parents and their children must make many adjustments to daily routines and schedules. This is the perfect time to commit to making sufficient sleep a part of every family member's regular schedule," notes Vipin Garg, MD, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Trinitas. "Remember, sleep is a healthy choice."

To help parents/caregivers and children plan a back to school sleep schedule, NSF and Trinitas Regional Medical Center offer the following eight tips that should be maintained throughout the school year:

  • Begin the routine early. Parents/caregivers should start their child's school sleep routine at least one or two weeks before the first day of school by introducing a gradual change in their child's sleep schedule, such as going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier each night. This can make it easier for children to adjust their sleeping patterns to meet the new school schedule.
  • Make sufficient sleep a family priority. Parents/caregivers need to determine the amount of sleep each family member needs and take steps to ensure individual needs are met. Every family member must make a good night's sleep a regular part of his/her daily schedule.
  • Embrace good sleep habits that include bedtime routines. Regular bedtime routines should include at least 15-30 minutes of relaxing, quiet activities immediately prior to bedtime. A quiet and comfortable bedroom, and appropriate bedtimes and wake times can go a long way to better sleep. Televisions and computers need to be out of the bedroom; caffeine (found in beverages, chocolate and other products) should not be part of a child's diet.
  • Achieve a balanced schedule. Identify and prioritize activities that allow for downtime and sufficient sleep time. Help students avoid an overloaded schedule that can lead to stress and difficulty coping, which contribute
  • Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, having trouble breathing, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. Sleep problems can be evident in daytime behavior such as being overtired or sleepy.
  • Talk to your child's doctor about sleep. Parents/caregivers should discuss their child's sleep habits and problems with their child's doctor, as most sleep problems are easily treated. Health care professionals must regularly ask about a child's sleep.
  • Be a role model. Parents and other caregivers can be role models for school-aged children by establishing their own regular sleep schedule and a home environment
  • Become a sleep advocate. Take steps to encourage scheduling of events to help children keep their sleep schedules. Also, encourage schools to include sleep in health and science curriculums to help students better understand the importance of sleep to their overall health, safety, and quality of their lives.

For parents who believe their child may have a serious sleep problem, the Trinitas Comprehensive Sleep Disorders Center offers advanced sleep testing and diagnosis. The Center is designed to diagnose and treat various sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, snoring, insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness/fatigue, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, nocturnal seizures and abnormal nighttime behavior.

"Getting a good night's sleep is an essential part of healthy living," says Vipin Garg, M.D., Director of the Sleep Disorders Center. "But for millions of people who suffer from sleep disorders, getting enough rest can be difficult, if not impossible. Left untreated, these sleep disorders not only affect the quality of life, but can have harmful, even life-threatening effects on health, well-being and safety."

At the Center, diagnostic sleep studies are performed by registered polysomnographers and interpreted by physicians trained in Sleep Medicine. They can quickly diagnose any problem, and provide expert treatment and follow-up. A special sleep testing room for children and adolescents enables a parent to accompany them throughout the study.

For further information, call (908) 994-8694 or e-mail the Center at