New York Methodist Hospital Offers Pediatric Insomnia Program

Aug 21, 2014

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Jeremy Weingarten, MD, chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine and director of the Center for Sleep Disorders.

A year after the successful opening of NYM's renovated Center for Sleep Disorders and pulmonary faculty practice, the Hospital's sleep experts have now added a pediatric insomnia program to the Center's lineup of services. The program is specifically geared toward treating insomnia—difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up repeatedly throughout the night—in children whose sleeplessness is due to behavioral or psychological factors.

"At any age, getting a full night's sleep is important—however, it is especially important during the childhood years," said Jeremy Weingarten, M.D., chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, and director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at NYM. "Whereas the typical adult requires seven to eight hours of restful sleep every night to function best, an adolescent needs about nine hours, and younger children need even more. When a serious physical condition such as obstructive sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids is the cause of sleeplessness, there are numerous advanced treatments and surgical procedures available. For example, if a child has sleep apnea, treatment options include surgical removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids by a pediatric otolaryngologist or treatment with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to regulate his or her breathing overnight.

"But much of the time, a child's insomnia does not have a physical cause-it is due to behavioral or environmental factors that need to be identified and corrected."

The pediatric insomnia program offers cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat childhood insomnia. CBT is a structured program, with the number of sessions depending on the patient, that addresses long-term insomnia by identifying and treating its underlying causes.

"There are many bad habits that can cause insomnia in children," said Boris Dubrovsky, Ph.D., associate director of the Center and clinical psychologist in behavioral sleep medicine. "Having a parent lie down with the child until the child falls asleep; not "dialing down" stimuli in the hours prior to bedtime; too much light in the room; anxiety; electronic equipment usage-all of these can lead to the development of insomnia. Through CBT, we first identify the underlying cause of a child's insomnia by determining what is 'triggering' it. We then craft a plan to address those triggers, which may include relaxation training, stimulus control, or working with parents to help develop an effective pre-bedtime "ritual" for their children."

The benefits of addressing a child"s insomnia extend almost equally to the child's parents.

Concluded Dr. Weingarten, "As many moms and dads—myself included—know, when a child doesn't sleep that means a parent doesn't sleep either."

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