The Science behind Sleep Disorders

Does your child snore regularly, or experience difficulty breathing while sleeping? This could be a very serious condition. A child’s body detects a subtle form of suffocation when breathing is disrupted during sleep. It responds by speeding up the heart rate, spiking blood pressure and rousing the child from sleep.

This condition, called pediatric sleep-disordered breathing, requires medical attention. An ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor can determine through an examination the cause of the snoring—whether it is an allergy, nasal obstruction or obstructive sleep apnea.

Dr. Mark Ghegan of Charleston ENT & Allergy says children present a variety of symptoms if they have pediatric sleep-disordered breathing. “Any child suffering from chronic sleep loss is bound to exhibit some type of adverse behavior,” he says.

These are some symptoms:

1. Snoring
Snorting, snoring, choking and waking are all signs that your child’s sleeping is being disrupted by snoring. If you determine that your child is regularly exhibiting these behaviors during sleep, bring him or her to an ENT.

2. A Short Fuse

Children who wake up unrefreshed by deep sleep may be irritable. This is an understandable byproduct of fatigue.

3. Exhaustion

Sleep-disordered breathing can lead to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that robs the child of deep R.E.M. sleep necessary for optimal functioning during the day. Children, and adults alike, with sleep apnea are prone to dozing off during the day.

4. Academic Regression

Children with sleep-disordered breathing have trouble focusing at home and in class. They may fall behind in school and exhibit difficulty learning. They may be misdiagnosed as learning disabled when all they are is tired.

5. Bedwetting

The body’s response to disrupted breathing is to stimulate the fight-or-flight instinct, which creates an imbalance in the body’s hormones and an excess in the production of urea. That can lead to bedwetting.

6. Obesity

The fight-or-flight response interferes with the production of insulin, reducing the desire for physical activity in children who already spend more time in front of screens than engaged in physical activity. This is a recipe for obesity.

6. Heart Trouble

Ongoing issues with curtailed sleep put your child’s body in constant stress. Eventually this can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and other serious medical problems.


Children with high risk factors associated with sleep apnea, like obesity, airway obstruction or neurological disorders may find relief from weight loss and CPAP machines without the need for surgery.

For others, the ENT may recommend removal of the tonsils and adenoids. Most of the half-million tonsils and adenoids surgery procedures each year address sleep-disordered breathing. “I get feedback from parents all the time who are just amazed at the difference they see in their children,” says Dr. Ghegan.

It is also worth noting that parents with sleep-disordered breathing will exhibit many of the same symptoms. Failing to address your problems can have a negative effect on your children, particularly if you are experiencing fatigue, have difficulty concentrating and find yourself irritable often. Parents, like children, should see their ENT to determine the cause and a course of treatment.

Don’t let your child suffer from the fallout of sleep-disordered breathing anymore, particularly when the treatment may be simple and the consequences dire. Contact Charleston ENT & Allergy today at (843) 776-7103 to make an appointment or visit for more information.

About Dr. Ghegan


  • University of Virginia: BS in Biology
  • Medical College of Georgia: MD (First in class)
  • Medical University of South Carolina: Internship and Residency


  • Board Certified

Professional Affiliations

  • Member of the South Carolina Medical Association
  • Member of the Medical Society of South Carolina and the Charleston County Medical Society
  • Member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAOA)
  • Member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society (awarded to top 10% of medical school class)

Awards and Honors

  • Selected as "One of The Best Doctors in America"


  • Otolaryngology Advisory Board


  • Golf, fishing, snow skiing, water skiing, and spending time with family