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My Child Falls Asleep Early, Snores Loudly, And Seems To Stop Breathing

by Heather M

Hello. My son is six years old and his father and I worry every night and sometimes stay awake ourselves for hours watching to make sure he keeps breathing.

First of all, he is usually so tired he falls asleep every night at like six pm and then wakes up at sometimes between 3-6 in the morning. He has now got my daughter on the same sleep schedule. If I try to keep him up it's impossible, and after he's asleep he will literally not wake up for any reason.

Then while he sleeps he not only snores loudly but his chest can be seen retracting in and out violently. His stomach and head move violently back and forth. He pauses while sleeping and doesn't breathe for what seems like forever and then will gasp for air and start all over again.

He wakes up a lot for drinks. I have let his doctor know all of these things and his only response was that if he doesn't stop breathing for 10 secs or longer it's nothing... I'm not happy with what he's said, its torture watching my son sleep every night, please help!!!

Kevin: Hi Heather, Thank you for writing in. What your doctor said was very irresponsible, as this sounds completely like sleep apnea and should be treated as soon as possible. You were right to
not be satisfied with what he said to you.

Unfortunately, many doctors are still very ignorant of sleep disorders, so you will be best served by asking for a referral to a sleep clinic or targeting a doctor with a background in sleep medicine. Sleep apnea is the most common of sleep disorders, and no doctor should be as ignorant as to say it is fine as long as he doesn't stop breathing for more than 10 seconds. That's outrageous. Dr. Dement has made it his life's mission to educate the medical community about sleep disorders, but unfortunately it has apparently taken a long time to permeate some doctor's offices.

You can learn more about sleep apnea in children from this page of our site.

I wish you all the best. Please feel free to post comments below if you have any questions or if you would like to update this page with any progress or setbacks your son has experienced. I imagine other parents who have experienced exasperation at the hands of doctors who were ignorant of the sleep disorder their child was experiencing will be interested in hearing what you have to say and commenting here too.


(Please keep in mind that I am a student of sleep science and not a medical doctor. Please take any thoughts I give with my background in mind.)

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Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

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