A reader recently posted a question about kids who have difficulties waking up in the morning:
I am interested in the help available for those who simply cannot wake up in the morning. My brother has, since a young kid, absolutely not been able to wake up in the morning on his own. Even with very intense attempts to wake him by others, it is about an hour long procedure in itself, maybe longer. He dropped out of college because he could not get up for class with no one there to wake him, and at 21 still lives with our parents though he fears losing his job due to missed work. Doctors he speaks with simply cast him off with “oh you just need a louder alarm clock” (He has the loudest, most obnoxious one money can buy, which includes a vibrating pad for under your pillow) or “you’re just hard to wake up” (duh). Is there any help available for people like this? He does have some lifestyle changes that could help, but it doesn’t seem that they would make as significant a difference as he needs, since this has been occurring for so long. Dr. Rosen, if you are able to even point me in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it!
I am very grateful for your question, as I think it points out how much work remains to be done to increase awareness of sleep disorders and the importance of treating them, both in the general population as well as within the health care profession. Everyone needs to sleep, and it has been well demonstrated that insufficient and/or poor quality sleep adversely affect our emotional and physical health, and in children can impair development, behavior, and cognitions. Despite this, most people who suffer from sleep disorders do not discuss them with their physician, and when they do, are often given a pill to help them fall asleep in the evening or to wake up in the morning instead of undergoing a thorough evaluation to identify the underlying problem is and determine how best to treat it.
In answer to your question, I would suggest that if your brother’s physician has not been able to resolve your brother’s problem satisfactorily, it would be worthwhile for him to see a board certified sleep specialist to get further assistance. The difficulties he is having waking up in the morning could be the result of many causes, including insufficient sleep, irregular sleep schedule, circadian rhythm phase delay, poor sleep hygiene, obstructive or central sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movements of sleep, the effects of medications he may be taking, an underlying physical or psychiatric disorder, to name but a few, either in isolation or in combination. The treatments for each can be quite different: someone who chokes on his throat while sleeping because of obstructive sleep apnea may need to be on CPAP (a machine which blows air into his throat so that it doesn’t collapse) whereas someone whose sleep schedule is erratic may find that paying closer attention to it may be all he needs to get back on track.
A list of sleep centers accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) can be found at http://www.sleepcenters.org/. All sleep centers accredited by the AASM have board certified sleep specialists on staff.
I hope this helps. Good luck!
For more information on sleep disorders in children, please visit Rosen’s blog, Sleeping Angels.