I was interviewed by the Boston Globe today on optimizing sleep in young children. Sleep disturbances in children are so common, after all, and although an estimated 30% of kids have problems with their sleep, less than one quarter are ever seen by a medical professional because of them. This is the part I always have difficulty understanding.
Almost every time I mention to someone that I am a sleep specialist, their eyes light up and they tell me about some problem their child, or they, or someone else they know has with their sleep. And yet, the vast majority of those with sleep disorders don't seek help for them. Why is this? Out of shame? Or a sense, perhaps, that sleep, something we spend one third of our lives doing, is somehow trivial or unimportant? I doubt that. I think it's more likely that they worry that the most they'll get from their doctors are pills or machines, if they're even willing to listen to them. And yet, what is the practice of medicine if not listening to and trying to understand one's patients and what they are going through?