While sleeping, 2-year-old Ashley would shout out, flail her arms and grind her teeth. Her worried mom, Michelle Moon, became accustomed to running into her room multiple times each night, to make sure she was all right. Her intense nerves were the result of a tragedy. Ashley's father died in his sleep due to cardiomyopathy, most likely caused by undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, the blockage of airways. The Mansfield mom of three sought help from Connecticut Children's Sleep and Neurodiagnostic Center, which recently moved to a brand-new space in Farmington. "It can affect the whole family when you have a child that is up at night," says Dr. Jay Kenkare, medical director, advising tired parents to take action and get help.
"There were a fair amount of sleep centers in the state but none really dedicated to just the treatment of children's sleep disorders," says Kenkare, as he walks through the "sleep testing rooms", adorned with colorful artwork, iPad docking stations, flat screen TVs, DVD players and private bathrooms, to help youngsters feel comfortable. Just opened in March, the center holds 15 to 20 patients a week for one night observational visits. "You wonder, 'How am I going to be able to sleep, away from home, with wires,'" says Kenkare. "But, really, most kids are able to do it. About ninety percent of the kids are able to get a good night sleep here to the point where we can get the information that we need." A technician outfitted Ashley with electrodes and wires. "She actually did really well," says Moon. "I think she was a little bit worried at first, until she got to see that mommy was going to stay the night with her and that everything was Ok. Nothing hurt." The little girl was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, which, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, occurs in two percent of otherwise healthy children, often caused by large tonsils and adenoids.
"As the field expands and evolves, we really recognize that a good night's sleep for kids is really important to their overall health," says Kenkare, noting that he sees patients with a variety of problems. "There's a big issue with obesity in this country. We're seeing a lot of kids that are overweight and, as a result, are having breathing problems at night." Exhaustion can lead to behavior problems and poor performance at school.
Now 4 years old, Ashley is a different sleeper. Doctors removed her adenoids and her symptoms improved. "She is sleeping much more peacefully," smiles Moon, who, along with her other two daughters, also feels better. After all they've been through, the Moons are grateful that little Ashley is healthier and happier.
To see Connecticut Children's Sleep and Neurodiagnostic Center's new sleep lab, tune-in to Monday's Fox CT Morning News.