Six-Year-Old Who Will Not Sleep

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Playing Child with a Sleep Disorder

Leah, 31, says she is at her wits' end trying to get her 6-year-old daughter, Haley, to sleep on a regular schedule. She says her daughter’s poor sleeping habits began at birth and have become progressively worse as she has grown older. Leah says that in just the past year, Haley has been diagnosed with ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder and sensory integration disorder. She worries that a lack of sleep exacerbates Haley’s behavioral problems and could lead to more severe issues as Haley becomes an adult. 

Desperate for a solution, Leah reached out to The Doctors for help. The Doctors send Leah and Haley to board-certified sleep medicine specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta for a consultation. After examining Haley, Dr. Dasgupta attaches an actigraphy machine, which looks like a wristwatch, to Haley’s wrist. The machine will track Haley’s sleep patterns for seven days, so Dr. Dasgupta can find out exactly how many hours of sleep Haley achieves per night as well as the quality of those hours of sleep.

Based on Haley’s actigraphy results, Dr. Dasgupta determines that Haley has delayed sleep phase syndrome, meaning she’s falling asleep much later than she should. He recommends a small dose of melatonin given at a very specific time each night. He says that a common misconception about melatonin is that it is a sedative, when in fact the naturally occurring hormone works to regulate a person’s circadian rhythm.

OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton adds that any parent considering melatonin as a sleep-aid for children should consult with their pediatrician first.