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Sleep Issues in Small Children

August 22, 2014


I've thought really long and hard about whether or not to share this story.  It's personal and opens us up to controversy which I honestly don't have the heart for right now.  But I also think it's important to share.  Every time I have pushed go on a personal post about my children I received countless emails thanking me for sharing.  If this helps even one other family then it's worth it.

If you've read here for a long time then you've probably picked up on the fact that Tagg is a terrible nighttime sleeper.  We followed the same sleep training methods as an infant that we did successfully with Wells. And they worked.  His nature and personality are completely different from his sister so we varied some things.  We also had a 17 month old that we didn't want to wake up so we varied a few of the key ingredients to suit our whole family's needs.  And you know what, it worked.  He was a happy dreamy sleeping baby by 4 months old.  Just about a month later than his sister.  He napped regularly during the day and gave us about 11-12 hours of uninterrupted peaceful sleep.

The summer when Wells turned two was the summer of sleep.  She napped and slept 12 hours a night.  Tagg napped twice and slept the same stretch.  It was bliss.  Then something happened.  Around the same time Wells dropped her nap, Tagg stopped sleeping soundly through the night.  That two years ago this fall.

We tried everything.  Changing bedtimes, changing naps, changing clothes.  It was always something.  About that same time we diagnosed his food allergies and his daytime eating slowed drastically.  So it took awhile before he wasn't hungry in the night again.  And then his eczema flared with a crazy vengeance.  It took a few months and a few staff infections to get that under control.  That obviously affected his sleep as well.  We learned that his nighttime dose of Benedryl was actually causing insomnia.  Seriously?  Isn't that the wonder drug for kids on road trips and nighttime?  Not us.  Fast forward to the past year.  His sleep got worse.  He goes to bed easily, minus a few age appropriate stall tactics, but has trouble staying asleep for long periods of time.  He's not getting any of the good REM sleep he needs.

He snores.  He coughs.  He coughs so much he chokes.  He tosses and turns all night long.  He cries in his sleep.  He gets super sweaty and sometimes needs a clean shirt.  He cant' find his water bot.  He needs more water in his bot.  He needs nothing yet he whines.   The other night I went in to check on him and he stopped crying and said, "oh, sorry Mom."  Bless his sweet little heart, he's the world's crappiest sleepier.  My number one struggle with motherhood is the lack of sleep and God gifted me with this child who can't.  It took a lot of middle of the night soul searching to think of this situation as a gift.  But it sure is one.

Bottom line.  Tagg has sleep apnea.  Google it, and that's him.  Text book case.  I only wish I'd googled it myself earlier.  He's got monster tonsils that we're hoping are the route of his problem so they're taking those out next week along with his adenoids.

So here's where y'all come in.  Have your children had this procedure?  Tell me about it.  Prep, recovery; I like details and the internet is a scary place when you try to get real life examples.  It's full of worst case scenarios.  I'm going to do a follow-up post after his surgery but I thought it would be beneficial to me to hear your stories too.  Ideas for keeping them comfortable, food they ate.  I'm guessing ice-cream and jello are only good for about a day.  Although Tagg would probably be happy to eat scream and boo jewoh every day of his life.

Anyway, we'll be spending the weekend playing outside and staying away from heavy trafficked kids area.  No germs please.

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37 comments:

  1. no words of advice, but praying for you and hoping it helps him sleep better!

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  2. I don't have children yet, but I personally went through what Tagg is going through- only I got my tonsils & adenoids removed in an emergency situation. I had acute tonsillitis on top of strep. I was out of commission for a month, out of school for 1 1/2 months afterward, was put on "home bound" with a teacher who came over, lost weight I couldn't afford to lose, and was very very frail (to the point that I couldn't walk, I had to crawl) because I slept through my entire recovery. That was the best sleep my mom & I got in years. I think my case was the worst case scenario (according to my doc). Afterward, I was a lot better, breathing a lot better, but I still had snoring issues and slight pausing of my breathing when I slept. I then had surgery on a deviated septum. Since then, i've been golden. I hope & pray that Tagg gets better. I know what it's like for him & you to get zero sleep. Best of luck next week!

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  3. You are such a good Mom! Sounds like a great plan, i'll be praying also this is the answer for your sweet boy. My brother had this done, I guess its common in boys? No problems with surgery, you might want to stock up on that ice cream you all were making though! xo

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  4. My son had adenoids taken out when he was 7. I was so nervous but, honestly, it was no big deal. I feel for you about the nighttime issue. My daughter (the 17 year old) has always been a crappy sleeper. Bedtime was a struggle that lasted for hours every night when she was little. She still stays up very late every night and makes up for it with a nap or sleeping late. She is just like that though. No medical issues. I am so sorry that Tagg has medical problems that are keeping him (and you) awake. Fingers crossed that the tonsillectomy works!

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  5. My oldest had his adenoids out when he was two. If you can manage his pain and keep him hydrated he'll do fine. Popsicles, sonic ice, juice-- whatever he'll drink. /i think days 3 and seven were the worst. It has something to do with the scabs coming off {gross, i know}. Also, be prepared for the smell. It's awful. They cauterize the wound site.

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  6. We just had the exact same procedure at UVA for my 6 year old son in June and it has been life changing....LIFE CHANGING. The recovery was fine, they bounce back so much faster than you or me in this same surgery. Within a week he was swimming and playing. We had a few lazy days on the couch, but other than that, he was good to go. You are completely doing the right thing for him (and you!). Hope all goes well :)

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  7. I was in 7th grade when I had my tonsils and adenoids taken out. It was long over due. Strep throat was my best friend as a child and I'm not sure how it took till 7th grade to remove them. I do remember as a child waking myself up from snoring multiple times a night! I didn't have a terrible problem sleeping but I was constantly sick with some kind of throat or sinus thing before my tonsils were removed. I remember parts about the surgery process. It seemed very easy and quick. Lots of popsicles and icecream. Since having my tonsils out (I'm 28) I do not get sick very often. I haven't had strep throat since then and I occasionally get a sinus infection. I also no longer snore. The recovery was also not that bad! All I wanted was my momma's nurturing and that did the trick!! I wish Tag and you the best of luck!! Will keep y'all in my prayers!!

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  8. Julia- I have never experienced sleep apnea wih my children but your story sounds exactly like another blogger I follow, Ashley at Little Miss Momma. She goes into great detail about her son's surgery and she is a great writer. She is very open about the good and the bad of Lil W's surgery in 2012.
    www.littlemissmomma.com

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  9. I am sending my best wishes for an easy procedure, quick recovery and future nights full of sleep for Tagg and you! xxoo

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  10. Two of our daughters had tonsils and adenoids removed. Our oldest daughter had them removed when she was 10. She had repeated strep and snored like a bear. Surgery is very quick (about 1/2 hour - takes longer to anesthetize than the actual surgery). Our middle daughter also had them removed, but not until she was 22. She was such a lousy/light sleeper as an infant/toddler/child - I think we should have investigated it years before. She also had repeated strep and abscessed tonsils. For both of them, the first few days after surgery were not too bad. They apply a topical pain med during (after?) surgery and it takes a good 24 hours to wear off. Start any oral pain meds they give as soon as possible - keeping up with the pain seems to be the key. The most important thing is hydration. Sore throat = don't want to drink anything. Prepare for really bad breath. For both of our girls, recovery was about 10 days. Surgery helped both with infections, breathing and sleeping. Hope this helps Tag, as well.

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  11. Julia-
    I am not a usual commenter but I do religiously read your blog and love it. I had to comment after your post today-I am a family nurse practitioner and before I got to the end of your post I knew by the symptoms you detailed that Tagg needs his adenoids out. As a mother of 2 little ones I completely understand your apprehension, but want to tell you that it is a very safe and low risk procedure and I guarantee you will be SO happy when it's done. It's seriously life changing for children who undergo this-they feel better and sleep better and so does Mama!! Just be sure, as you already know, to discuss with your trusted pediatrician and see someone who has a good reputation and track record. Hope this helps and I bet you will be glad you did it!

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  12. My neighbor's daughter had her tonsils taken out this spring and everything went very smoothly. She also had read too many "horror" stories on the internet and was prepared for the worst but everything was fine. Best of luck to you and Tagg!
    -Shelley

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  13. his life will change FULL CIRCLE..my oldest had the procedure done the summer before 1st grade..a GODSEND!! she's still a light sleeper but her life health improved as well.. she has only had Strep Throat once since 5K!!! lots of popsicles and ices!

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  14. I used to work in an ENT office before I entered into the design world and they did this surgery routinely on A LOT of kids with the same issues. It's a pretty common procedure and being as he's on the younger side they usually do much better with tonsils being removed than older kids because they tolerate pain better. They just bounce back so much quicker...the biggest thing is making sure he eats/drinks throughout the entire post-op period. As long as he does that (which will keep him hydrated, etc) he will wiz through everything just fine I'm sure! We saw drastic improvement with kids after this so will be sending prayers your way that sleep is in your future!! XO

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  15. My now 7 year old has had 3 rounds of ear tubes and on the last set when he was 4- they took out his very enlarged adenoids. His tonsils were left in. But the surgery is fast and the full recovery was about 2 weeks. Lots of jello and froZen juice pops. A lot of cuddling and movies on the couch. He is my allergy (food and environmental) and eczema guy so I feel your pain. I've heard the tonsil removal is a Godsend for sleep apnea in kids so I'm sure in a month, you'll be sleeping better. By the way, our allergist gave us Hydroxyzine for night time itching. Does the trick.
    Good luck

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  16. Aww poor Tagg!! I don't have children myself yet and therefore no advice to offer, but this post really struck me. I feel so terrible for him and the stress it must be putting you under. Will certainly be thinking of you!

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  17. I haven't gone through this with my child, but my brother had this done in his late teens and it was a much rougher recovery than if he had done it as a child. I've always heard it's much easier for young kids. No words of advice but hopefully you can take some comfort in knowing you are doing this now rather than later when it would likely be tougher on him.

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  18. Will you be in-patient in the hospital for any time or is it an out-patient procedure? If it's in-patient, I would take the following:
    - a pillow/pillowcase from home (hospital pillows are typically sealed in some sort of vinyl that makes them extremely hot and having your own pillowcase just normalizes a scary environment)
    - a beach towel / throw for yourself. waiting rooms are always so cold.
    - bubbles or even better one of those batter operated (or crank) bubble "guns" that makes tons of bubbles
    - an iPad
    - some Thomas the Trains / matchbox cars
    - something new for him to open - Someone brought George this stuff called Sand from Brookstone and it was wonderful. It's 99% sand (go figure!) and 1% polymer so it sticks to itself but not you and is easy to contain / clean up. We put it in one of those clean plastic hospital containers and let him build hills and roads to push his cars & trucks around in.
    - Pajamas that button up the front or snap are easier than ones that have to go over your head.
    - And (you probably know this from your experience with Wells but I've found that my experiences handing over a toddler are very different from my friends' experiences with handing over their infants) ... don't let them rush you during the hand-off. I let myself be rushed once and it made the whole ordeal much harder. He is your child and you have the right to feel comfortable handing him over. For George's last surgery I insisted that he be asleep before I handed him to the team. They can safely do this.

    Good luck! I hope this helps with his sleep. It is so hard but children are so resilient. He will do great. xo

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  19. PS - sorry for the novel comment above and if i sound like a Know-it-All. I definitely don't know it all. I've just had (too much) experience recently. :)

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  20. I'm sorry for his struggle and yours! My youngest was an amazing sleeper until we moved her to a big bed and now she's hit or miss with sleeping at night (and naps). Oldest was great at first and has had nightmares & sometimes night terrors since she was about a year. It's rough as a mom to not get uninterrupted sleep night after night!! As for the surgery, my youngest had her adenoids removed last winter when they did her tubes. Going under anesthesia, no problem; coming out was HORRIFIC. It was like her little body was possessed - she screamed, thrashed, tried to bite everything and everyone, etc. Nurse and doctor said it was completely normal but it was terrifying as her mother to not be able to soothe her at all. I wish someone had warned me so I'm warning you. Took her a few days for her to go completely back to normal. Good luck!

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  21. My son had a hernia repair at 11 months old. It went waaaaaay better than I thought. Anesthesia only stays in kids for a very short amount of time, they bounce back much faster than adults. For pain all he needed was Motrin and Tylenol alternating. This is obviously a different surgery for surgery nonetheless. He only needed pain meds for 24 hours. Also---- as a nurse I had heard from some nurse friends that the hardest part is watching your child go under. My friends told me to opt out of staying in the room when this happened. I thought long and hard and decided I wanted to be there to hold his hand. It was very emotional but I was happy I stayed with him. Good luck!

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  22. The 3-year-old son of a friend of mine just had his tonsils and adenoids removed. His were like Tagg's, large and hanging in his throat blocking his air way. My friend said the first couple days weren't that bad, but by day 4 the novelty of taking the pain medicine had worn off and he began refusing it, he was also in a great deal of pain even if he had the medicine. You should prepare for a delayed effect on the pain. It will start off ok, go down hill around day 4 and then start to get better around day 10. When I had my tonsils out at 21 the only thing I could eat was soft white bread with peanut butter on it. I'm not sure if that works with your allergy restrictions though. They also said they had a hard time getting him to eat much of anything. By day 10 he was back to his usual self though and is sleeping MUCH better now! They actually go and check on him now because he is so quiet when he sleeps! Good luck and lots of prayers for Tagg and your family!

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  23. Ok. So. I don't want to scare you, but as a mom myself now I want to share. I had my tonsils removed wen I was 6. Textbook operation. I had been home from the hospital for a few days, and for some reason, my mom decided I should sleep in bed with her. I never ever dd that. I woke her up in the middle of the night coughing, I won't get graphic, but I had to be rushed to the ER and it was very serious. So just be cautious as you normally would I'm sure, and keep an extra watchful eye on the recovery of your little guy :)

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  24. So hoping it is an easy procedure, and I understand from friends that the younger the better. He'll love the popsicles and jello and movies on the sofa. I'll be thinking about you both…

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  25. We did tonsil/adenoid with our girl at 3. It was an easy procedure. She cried her head off coming out of anesthesia, broke my heart. The first three days we took the big pain meds then weaned down to Tylenol. I will tell you night time was so hard, the surgery causes temporary extra thick mucous in the throat so she gurgled and sputtered and choked. I slept with her 4 nights. The meds make kids hallucinate a bit, but help stay ahead of the pain. She literally woke up on day 7 like nothing ever happened! I will also say I've never smelled breath that bad - totally unprepared for that.

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  26. God Bless y'all, we will pray for that sweet boy and a speedy recovery.

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  27. I have heard that the surgery is life changing! Everyone needs sleep. Praying this works for y'all and you both get some sleep.

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  28. My 2.5 year old just had her adenoids and tonsils taken out in July. The good news is it will definitely solve the snoring issues and I honestly think her sleep has better. She wakes up rested and much less cranky. That's the good part, the bad part is that it will take probably two weeks to get to that point. The surgery and hospital stay were pretty good. We got a book on amazon called 'Goodbye Tonsils'. We read it to her every night and were really honest about what to expect. Boo boos and all! I think this important because she was much calmer going into the surgery and she came out calm. The first few days I suggest you stay on top of pain control. We gave her Tylenol regularly for 3 days...whether she asked for it or not. After that point we slowly weaned off. Stock up on a lot of soft smooth foods...avoid anything acidic or spicy. You will also have to avoid giving him anything crunchy (ex/toast, crackers, etc) and hot (temp). That is the hardest part...my daughter is a great water but there is only so many Luke warm

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  29. Sorry my computer died, this is still Kerry just on my husband's computer now. So there is only so many luke warm mushy foods a person can take and he will likely be hungry and drop some weight. All the weight comes back once he is feeling better. One of the best things we did was get this giant mug with a lid and straw from Target. It had one of her favorite cartoon characters on it and we gave it to her on the first day. We called it her "tonsil cup" and it went a long way in motivating her to drink. HYDRATION IS SO KEY. It will help speed up the recovery and it will also help with pain management. Once the incisions start to dry out they become a little more painful. His doctor will also likely put him on some activity restrictions so I suggest planning/buying a few low key toys/activities/movies. Distraction also helps a lot with pain management. Overall just keep in mind he will look to you to help get through the surgery. If you are calm, positive, and brave he will be the same. I wish you the best of luck. I know two weeks after the surgery you will be so grateful you did this for your son! It is a game changer!

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  30. Good gracious you can see those tonsils in the picture! You are doing the right thing for him which will make a huge difference. Good Luck! I wish I knew your ENT; Dr. Lim is very good with peds in the Richmond area.

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  31. It is a fast, noninvasive surgery. My son had it done when he was two along with tubes. Be ready for him to possibly throw-up in recovery room just b/c of the anesthesia. Gatorade for hydration.

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  32. Thanks so much for sharing! I know it takes a lot to share this on the internet and put yourself out there. I am sure the tonsils out will help immensely! Sleep apnea sucks and it is so good you diagnosed it! Have a wonderful (and germ free) weekend!

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  33. Yes! Last August (my daughter was almost 3) we finally got a referral to the ENT after so many issues. Difficulty sleeping, snoring, daytime exhaustion, sore throats, infections, ear infections, etc etc. The ENT took one look at her and said adenoids out and tubes in. It really helped so much. He wanted to wait on her tonsils since she was so young but they're always touching and he said between age 4 and 5 they will most likely come out too. The adenoids/tubes was truly an easy surgery. The hardest part was when she woke up from anesthesia and was scared. He will do great! Kids are so resilient and bounce back so easily! I hope this is your answer! Good luck!

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  34. My cousin's little boy was the same way and they had his tonsils and adenoids removed. Drastic improvement. I'll keep you guys in my prayers :)

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  35. Julia - Hi. I read through 1/3 of your post and thought, "I'm going to leave her a comment about tonsils and adenoids" and then I saw you got the diagnosis. My son, now almost 21, had his adenoids removed when he was 7. At that time, it was still very out-of-the norm to have them removed, we had to go to a second Dr. who would agree to do it. Having grown up in the '70's, I'm so pleased to see that children who need them removed are getting them taken out w/o the battle w/the medical community. After my son's were removed, the Dr came to me w/a very surprised and relieved look on his face and said, "Good thing this was done, they were so scarred and pitted from repeated infections all these years."

    Pretty much the best things is popsicles (no creamsicles or pudding pops) A previous commenter mentioned waking up scared from the anesthesia. That happened to Ryan too but the nurses will bring a parent in and as soon as they see you, they're fine. He didn't even remember it happening. All the best to you and Tag - I have a feeling alot of other symptoms may resolve themselves after the surgery, as they did for my son within a few months.

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  36. Oh Julia, I'm so sorry that you all had been going through this and that he has to have surgery but thank goodness you all finally found the root and the solution. I don't have any personal experience with it, but I'm sure you will get some great advice here.

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  37. My daughter had her tonsils and adenoids removed at age 2 because her tonsils were enlarged and causing her to snore and breathe irregularly at night. She was also getting sick frequently. While the recovery from the surgery was tough, the surgery was such a game changer for her. Her snoring and heavy breathing stopped and she has been such a healthy, happy kid since the surgery. They told us to expect a tough 7-10 days after the surgery but we figured she'd take it like a champ as she was running around an hour after her ear tube surgery. Unfortunately, it was as tough a recovery as they'd said. She was a pathetic creature for a full 10 days. Very sad and lethargic, not interested in eating or drinking. I think it was a little tougher because we didn't expect it, so that's why I share the reality of our recovery with you. I think all kids handle things differently though so it could be an easier road for Tagg. I hope so. Regardless, the surgery was great for my daughter and I hope it will be for your son too.

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