Parents may not be aware they can discuss their child’s sleep problems with you. As the child’s primary care provider, you can screen for sleep disorders and encourage healthy sleep habits the same way you promote a healthy diet, exercise and other good habits. Sleep disorders can affect every aspect of a child’s physical, emotional, cognitive and social development.
How can you screen for the myriad of sleep disorders during a busy office visit?
Studies show that asking a simple question—“Does your child have sleep problems?”—is not as likely to identify sleep disorders versus using a pediatric screening tool, such as BEARS. The basic sleep issues to screen for are easy to remember with the BEARS acronym.
Sample question: Does your child have any problems falling asleep at bedtime?
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Sample question: Is your child sleepy during the day?
Awakening during the night
Sample question: Does your child wake up a lot at night?
Regularity and duration of sleep problems
Sample question: Is your child’s sleep schedule irregular, with inconsistent bedtimes and wake times from day to day?
Sample question: Does your child snore a lot or have trouble breathing at night?
If parents answer yes to any of these questions, then further investigation is needed. You can then decide how to proceed:
- Provide counseling and handouts about common bedtime/sleep problems.
- Schedule another visit with the time necessary for discussion and management.
- Schedule a polysomnogram (sleep study).
- Refer the child to a pediatric sleep specialist for evaluation and treatment.