UniSA teacher asks parents to check child’s sleep before turning off


The struggle to get your child to fall asleep and stay asleep is something that most parents can relate to. Once the bedtime battle is over and the kids have finally fallen asleep, many parents also log off.

But University of South Australia researcher Professor Kurt Lushington is calling on parents to check their little snoozers before turning them off.

He says it’s important to know the quality of a child’s sleep, as it could be an indicator of sleep breathing disorders – an underreported medical condition that can affect a child’s health and well-being. .

During sleep, the muscles that keep the upper airways stiff relax and, as a result, the airways narrows, which can cause snoring, sniffling, or in severe cases, complete airway obstruction. “

Professor Kurt Lushington, University of South Australia

“It’s called sleep breathing disorders, which can cause a number of problems in children, including daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability, hyperactivity and poor attention – and potentially make it worse. school performance.

“The long-term effects are not well understood, but research suggests that sleep disturbances in breathing may also adversely affect cardiovascular and metabolic health.

“Sleep breathing disorders are not significantly diagnosed in the community. Parents can play an important role in the diagnostic process by looking for common symptoms, which include heavy breathing, snoring, gasping or sniffling,” and stopping breathing completely – then share that information with their child’s doctor.

In a new study of 1,639 children in South Australia, Professor Lushington and his colleagues interviewed parents to determine whether they viewed sleep breathing disorders as a sleep problem. The results suggest that many parents are concerned about their children’s sleep patterns, but this does not translate into seeking medical help.

Almost all parents of children with symptoms of sleep disturbance saw apnea as a problem, while almost two-thirds saw sniffing, gasping, and fear that their child would stop breathing as a problem.

About half of parents saw snoring as a problem and only a third considered breathing heavily, but not snoring, to be a problem.

Professor Lushington says the results are surprising given that most parents do not raise these issues with their child’s healthcare professionals.

“Parents are not inclined to discuss their child’s sleep difficulties during medical visits – in Australia, it is estimated that only 4% of parents will speak to their doctor about it,” he says.

“The good news from our study is that we found that many parents already recognize that there is a problem sleeping. Prior to that, we hypothesized that underreporting of symptoms suggesting sleep breathing problems , or sleep problems in In general, during a medical consultation, it could be due to the parents’ ignorance of an existing problem.

“While there is a need to educate parents more about the symptoms of sleep breathing disorders – especially when snoring or heavy breathing is a potential cause for concern, there are clearly other barriers for parents to raise. sleep problems during medical consultations.

To address this issue, we suggest that physicians deliberately include questions about sleep during consultations to encourage parents to discuss symptoms they may have seen in their children at night.

“If parents check to see if their children are sleeping well at night and doctors visit parents regularly to discuss children’s sleep patterns, we may be able to detect sleep breathing disorders earlier and take steps to treat them beforehand.” that they do not affect behavior and health. “

The current treatment for sleep breathing disorders in children is adeno-tonsillectomy – the removal of adenoids and tonsils – which is known to improve the quality of life and sleep in children.

The research was published in the article “Sleeping Breathing Disorders in Children: What Symptoms Do Parents See as a Problem?” In sleep medicine.

Your child’s sleep – check-in tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with guidelines for how much sleep children need at different ages to function well during the day.
  • If your child is getting enough sleep as directed, but is having daytime problems with drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, hyperactivity or lack of attention, this could be a sign of trouble breathing while sleeping.
  • If you notice that your child is snoring, having trouble breathing at night, having long pauses between breaths for more than 20 seconds, or panting at night, it is time to discuss the symptoms with your GP or pediatrician. child.

Learn about what normative sleep is to make sure everyone in your household gets a good night’s sleep – the Sleep Health Foundation is a great place to start with a number of fact sheets available for free in line.


University of South Australia

Journal reference:

Lushington, K., et al. (2021) Sleeping Breathing Disorders in Children: What Symptoms Do Parents See as a Problem ?. Sleep medicine. doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2021.02.014.

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