AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some children may not be getting enough sleep — and the scary reality could be seeping into their dreams.
“There are studies that have shown upwards of 50 percent of kids have some difficulties with their sleep during their lifetime,” said Dr. Brian Kang the medical director of Dell Children’s Sleep Lab.
The new pediatric Sleep Lab in Austin aims to diagnose and treat kids as young as birth with serious sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy or sleepwalking even nightmares.
The 2,885 square-foot Sleep Lab at Dell Children’s has a designated sleep study center with six beds for overnight evaluation, a ventilation machine that uses an electric circuit to monitor the breathing of a child with sleep apnea and nap studies to measure a child’s level of daytime sleepiness to evaluate for narcolepsy.
If a child has physiological sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Kang says treatment may include getting their tonsils and adenoids removed.
“If they have restless leg syndrome, we may look at their stored iron levels,” he said. “We can also work with the family and the child to try to ensure proper sleep without the the use of medications but we try to approach this as organically as possible,” said Dr. Kang.
The uncertainty of the pandemic may also keep children up at night or cause nightmares.
Dr. Kang says it can be challenging for parents to distinguish nightmares as a result from too much screen time during the pandemic or a sign of a sleep disorder.
“Any time the sleep challenges are associated with daytime concerns that would be an indicator to have their child further evaluated,” said Dr. Kang.
Concerns include hyperactivity, impulsivity, difficulty sitting still and paying attention.
Kang suggests parents minimize overall screen time for children, taking frequent breaks and a routine of physical activity outdoors to help children sleep better at night.
Dell Children’s is the only accredited pediatric sleep center in Central Texas specializing in sleep disorders for children of all ages, birth to 18 years-old.