Sleep Disorders in Children – Why Some Will Never Get Treated

If your child suffers from a sleep disorder, she may never get the treatment she needs. Noted sleep disorder authority, Dr. Dennis Rosen recently alerted the American medical community to an alarming trend: there is a growing shortage of qualified sleep disorder specialists who want to treat children. When it comes to adults, however, the trend is just the opposite. Most every doctor fresh out of medical school wants to treat adults. Why, you ask? Very simple: money.

Sleep disorder specialists who treat adults enjoy very lucrative salaries. Those who specialize in sleep issues for children, however, make only a fraction of those doctors who treat adults. To make matters worse, budding pediatricians must attend even more classes after their adult counterparts have already graduated from medical school and begun practicing. That means they’ll have even more debt to pay back once they finally get out and start working. These two major market factors have made pediatric specialties extremely unattractive from a financial standpoint. But laying the money issue aside, the implication of fewer pediatric sleep doctors is even greater. It means children with sleep problems won’t have access to the care they need.

This issue means one of two things, and neither of them are good. For starters, children who need these services will have to travel long distances to be diagnosed and cared for. Sadly, that’s the best case scenario. The not-so-good option is that children who happen to live near a qualified pediatric sleep specialist will most likely have wait a long time (perhaps months) before they get treatment.

The sleep disorder statistics in the U.S. tell the sad story. According to the American Board of Pediatrics, only 751 qualified pediatric practitioners are operating in the U.S. That’s only 1 for every 100,000 suffering children. If that’s not alarming enough check this out: In sparsely populated states (i.e., Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska), there simply aren’t any. Not even one!

These market conditions could come at a worse time in American history. The government is under tremendous pressure to reduce spending, even under President Obama’s health care reform. Yet without some kind of relief from Congress, little is likely to change. But the lack of qualified medical professionals specializing in children’s needs are too few and far between. The extra training is definitely needed (children aren’t just “little adults”). However, doing nothing isn’t an option for these children. While the requirement for additional medical training can’t be relieved, the financial burden on these aspiring doctors can. Otherwise American children will go without the sleep disorder solution they need because it’s not in a young doctor’s financial best interest to give them one.