This is a video of my son. It’s painful to watch but it was my reality.
This is my son…and he is only 3.5 years old here. I shared this video several months ago but I think it is so important to share this information again because it happens to more children than we realise. And parents need to be made aware of abnormal sleep presentation.
This was his sleep presentation before any assessment, diagnosis or surgery. Seeing him like this still kills me on the inside.
I originally hesitated in sharing this video because it’s personal and a painful reminder of what we went through, but as I said, I think it’s important to share with you what is NOT normal.
At this point, my son was ‘sleeping through the night’. He had age appropriate sleep quantity but was still waking up tired, he was emotional but FULL of energy!
I knew that his sleep presentation was not normal. I suspected he had sleep apnoea because, not only was he struggling to breathe at night, he had pauses of up to 12 seconds between breaths. He would foam at the mouth but he was also heavily sweating and snoring.
I went to the GP with this video and asked for a referral to a Paediatric ENT. Unfortunately, my GP was hesitant to write a referral because apparently, snoring in children is normal. How wrong that statement is! And lucky I knew that, and I knew my rights, and I didn’t leave that doctors office until I had that referral in my hands.
In the video, you can see that my son is struggling to breathe. His brain is essentially starving of oxygen. He is heavily breathing and snoring, his eyes are sunken and discoloured, he is sweaty and significantly restless. You can even see his neck and chest heaving, trying to drag that air in. This is certainly not normal.
After seeing the ENT, it turns out I was right. He did have sleep apnoea. He had enlarged tonsils, which apparently weren’t that big at the time. His adenoids were huge and needed to be removed and he also needed grommets inserted. His surgery to have this dealt with was scheduled for within 6 weeks!
Post surgery, sleep did improve but not as well as it should have. I kept an eye on his sleep presentation and although it was MUCH better, there was still something going on. Fast forward 15 months and his sleep deteriorated again. He began sweating, snoring and waking up tired. We took him back to the ENT and it turns out that his tonsils were bigger AND his adenoids had regrown! This is certainly not common but it is normal.
So back to the hospital we went to have his adenoids removed (again!) and his tonsils were to come out too!
After the tonsils and adenoids were removed, my son’s quality of sleep improved drastically. Life became better for him and his was finally getting the quality of sleep he needed.
I talk regularly about sleep quality because it is too often disregarded and when it comes to sleep, though quantity is important — so is quality. Most children need somewhere between 10-12 hours a night to wake up feeling well-rested, but a lot depends on exactly what happens during those hours. The quality of your child’s sleep ensures that they get the essential physical, mental, and emotional benefits needed from their sleep.
Poor sleep quality will leave your child feeling over tired too. They will survive on poor sleep quality, but they won’t thrive. And don’t we all want our children to THRIVE?
I want to point out here that my son had perfect sleep quantity for his age, but his quality of sleep was poop!
I have been aware of my son’s poor sleep quality for a long time, and am also aware that it stems from his poor oral posture and airways. I need you to know (for your own sake and your child’s) that this sleep presentation that you see in my son is NOT NORMAL. My personal journey has allowed me to understand sleep on a whole new level. I now work with families to determine what is poor sleep and what is causing it to be that way.
Unfortunately, the journey we go on to assess and manage our child’s sleep quality can be long and arduous. I am still on my son’s journey. He is now 8.5 years of age and we’re far from being over. However, I will not stop until it’s all sorted.
I am taking him to Sydney (we’re in Adelaide) to see Australia’s leading Paediatric ENT, Dr David McIntosh, for his expert opinion on my son’s airways. My son has recently started snoring, sweating in his sleep, and waking up tired again! Something is certainly going on! We are also under the care of an Orthodontist as my son needs a palate expansion and an advancement of his lower jaw to help with his airways.
I honestly believe that if I wasn’t in this line of work, I wouldn’t know anywhere near as much about his poor quality and my husband and I wouldn’t be able to help him as much as are right now.
And THAT is why I do what I do. I want to help other families improve their child’s sleep and overall quality of life. It is my calling and identifying WHY your child’s sleep is difficult is my ‘ace up my sleeve’. I am one of only a few sleep consultants who actually explore WHY your child’s sleep is difficult. And this is an extremely important part of any sleep consultation.
Amazing sleep quality and quantity is vital for our children to have optimal health and growth. Please don’t ignore your child’s sleep presentation if it's not 'normal'. If you have any concerns, I can help!
If you’d like to connect to discuss your child’s sleep, we can start with a 15 minute free discovery call
Forever bringing sleep to families,
My name is Shereen Nielsen and I am a certified infant and child sleep consult, working with children aged birth to 12 years. I am also a lecturer and mentor for students on their journey towards becoming a Sleep Consultant, through my on-line internationally recognised sleep consultants course.
If you would like more information about my services please contact me: