Why Special Needs Kids Should Be Checked for Obstructive Sleep Disorders

Why Special Needs Kids Should Be Checked for Obstructive Sleep Disorders

TeamSleep Apnea, Special Needs Dentistry


All children need a good night’s sleep to be healthy and happy and ready to learn and grow. Even a little sleep deprivation can cause daytime tiredness, lack of focus, poor decision-making, grumpiness, even behavior issues. Kids who aren’t at their best during the day could be having sleep issues at night. Sleep issues may be due to an obstructed airway.

Children with ADHD, Downs Syndrome, Autism, and other conditions listed below should be checked for sleep disorders as a matter of routine. Children with these special needs tend to be more susceptible to obstructive sleep disorders. Parents and doctors tend to overlook sleep habits because the focus is on the child’s special needs symptoms and therapies. Symptoms associated with their conditions, including difficulty focusing, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, and behavior issues are also symptoms of poor sleep. 

Addressing sleep issues and ensuring your child is able to get the quality sleep their brains and bodies need, can have an almost magical effect on their life. Your child will feel better and behavior issues could almost melt away. 

The book, Sleep-Wrecked Kids, has several pages devoted to parents of special needs children. The author, Sharon Moore, pulls statics from physicians including:

  • 34% – 89% of kids with autism spectrum disorders also have sleep disorders
  • At least 50% of children with Down’s Syndrome have OSA (obstructive sleep apnea)

In all children, ongoing lack of quality sleep affects their growth and development. It affects their immune system. It affects their ability to regulate body functions. For special needs children, and their parents, who already have more than their fair share of obstacles to navigate each day, they should not also be fighting the effects of poor sleep. Like all children, kids with special needs can only function at their best when their bodies and minds are fully refreshed and recharged overnight.

How an Orthodontist Can Help With Sleep Disorders

As an orthodontist, I’m in the ideal position to see how a child’s airway is affecting their sleep. This is something I’m passionate about, which is why I recommend Sleep-Wrecked Kids to the parents of any patient I see who shows signs of deprived sleep. I’m able to address certain sleep disorders by opening airways with special appliances or jaw alignment.

If your child is often tired, can’t sleep, snores, wakes up and can’t go back to sleep, is irritable, grumpy or has behavior issues, even if he or she doesn’t appear to have an orthodontic issue, schedule an appointment. I would like to help, especially if your child has any of these special needs:

  • Autism
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • ADHD
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
  • Craniofacial Syndromes such as Pierre Robin, Crouzon, Apert, Prader-Willi, or Pfeiffer

I look forward to meeting your child and helping your family toward peaceful sleep and better days.

Schedule an Appointment with Dr. Demko

Demko Orthodontics has extensive experience in helping patients with sleep apnea.  Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.