Behavioral Therapy to Improve Children’s Sleep Apnea

Behavioral Therapy to Improve Children’s Sleep Apnea

Everyone loves a good night's sleep. Getting lots of rest during the night and waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and energized is a feeling that few things can surpass. However, more than an activity you simply partake in, getting a good night’s rest, according to Kim Cahill, RN, MSN, APN, CPNP-PC, is a learned behavior that can be taught to just about anyone to help them sleep better during the night.

This is the underlying principle behind the new service available at Valley Hospital Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center, in which they use techniques from the cognitive behavioral branch of psychology to reinforce positive sleeping behavior while teaching the children new techniques to overcome common sleep problems, such as uneasiness in the dark or the inability to fall asleep without a parent, sibling, or caretaker in the same room, both of which are the leading causes of sleep interruption in children. The program called Behavioral Sleep Coaching, which is led by Cahill, consists of collaborative works among clinicians, patients (usually young children), parents, and caretakers to create effective programs that will be adapted to the child’s particular situation.

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What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment, which helps patients understand that their thoughts and feelings influence their behavior. This therapy is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders including, but not limited to, phobias, addiction, depression, and anxiety, among others.

CBT is usually a short-term therapy, that is, a therapeutic treatment, which seldom lasts up to 10 months. In CBT, patients are taught how to confront specific issues. Throughout the treatment’s duration, the patients learn how to identify and change destructive or perturbing thought patterns, which negatively influence their behavior. For instance, a person who normally spends a considerable amount of time thinking about airplane accidents, risks, and negative scenarios might find themselves suddenly and unconsciously avoiding traveling by air. The objective of CBT is to teach the patient that despite being unable to control every single aspect in the world, we can most definitely control how we interpret and react to different events that transpire in our environment.

CBT has been proven an effective method to treat tangible behavioral issues, as it addresses the problem directly, along with the mental resources that perpetuate the said disruptive behavior.

Valley Hospital Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center's Proposition

This New Jersey-based hospital and health center is broadening its expertise by offering behavioral sleep coaching for children who have trouble sleeping. The program includes services for children of all ages and addresses all the psychological, psychosocial, and external factors, which commonly disrupt the patient’s sleeping habits.

The reason behind the program is that, according to studies, around 25-40 percent of children, regardless of age, suffer from sleep complications at some point in their lives, most of which are commonly caused by a difficulty in falling asleep or not having long periods of rest due to nighttime fears and parent dependency.  

Moreover, if not promptly treated, the said conditions can evolve into chronic disorders, which can negatively impact the patient’s life, leading to learning, memory, and concentration complications, which, in turn, may cause academic decline, poor emotional intelligence, and other behavioral symptoms such as irritability, depression, or ADHD, among others. All of these factors can and will cause negative parent-child dynamics and complications within the family circle.

Fortunately, for every sleep complication, there is an appropriate treatment method for it. Case in point, through CBT sessions and regularly-scheduled follow-up meetings, experts at the health center can effectively pinpoint and address the factors that interfere with both the quantity and quality of the patient’s sleep, so that every child can attain perfect sleep cycles every night, feel great in the mornings, and have fun throughout the day.

Because of the positive behavior taught and reinforced on children by the staff at Valley’s, we may find a systematic introduction to a healthy sleep schedule and the promotion of a healthy and relaxing bedtime routine. The family’s support is, of course, quintessential for obtaining positive results throughout the program, as they will be the ones responsible for promoting a foundation of good sleep for the duration of the program, and which will stay with the child throughout his or her entire life. If time is an issue, parents will be pleased to know that although the behavioral strategy extends for long after the follow-up meetings have ended, the actual treatment takes only 2 to 4 sessions per child.

About the Treatment

Before beginning the treatment, Ms. Cahill, alongside Dr. Zandieh, will first perform a background check where they will obtain important information about the child’s medical and sleep history. Moreover, this initial examination will also allow them to determine if the child has intense bouts of snoring, increased shifting and restlessness during sleep, or excessive fatigue and weariness during the day, all of which require specific treatment first. Once the patient’s medical history has been obtained, the specialists can proceed to create a unique treatment plan adapted to the child’s and his or her family’s specific requirements.

Both Ms. Cahill and Dr. Zandieh are very knowledgeable professionals in the field of sleep medicine. The former has almost two decades of experience working in this field and is licensed through the New Jersey Board of Nursing, while also sporting a certification as a pediatric nurse practitioner through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), which allows her to meet and provide the best possible care to pediatric patients. Meanwhile, the latter is a board-certified medical practitioner in sleep medicine, pediatric pulmonology, and pediatrics. With little under 20 years of experience in the field of pediatric sleep medicine, she is capable of providing integrated care to young patients as early as their first few months of life to their older teens.

Pediatric patients that are suffering from sleep complications of any nature are encouraged to seek assistance at the Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center through a referral from their pediatrician. Furthermore, parents, physicians, and other involved individuals may book their appointments via phone call if their children or patients are having problems of this nature. Sleep complications are very serious issues, especially for young children as they can negatively impact their development as they mature. For this reason, sleep coaching services are covered by most insurance companies.

For a list of insurance companies that cover sleep behavioral coaching sessions, users are encouraged to reach out to the health center either via their website or through a phone call. Moreover, patients may schedule appointments or place additional inquiries via phone call through the number 201-447-8152.