Can Sleep Apnea affect Children? – we

Can Sleep Apnea affect Children?

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Can Sleep Apnea affect Children?

Does your child snore, have night sweats, take long breathing pauses while sleeping and repeatedly toss and turn during sleep? Do they exhibit chronic mouth-breathing while sleeping? All these are indications that your child may have sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 1-4% of children between the ages of 2 to 8 suffer from this sleep disorder. Furthermore, even though there is a chance that the child may "grow out of" sleep apnea, there is growing research which demonstrates that when pediatric sleep apnea is left untreated it can negatively affect the child. Sleep walking, metabolic problems, childhood obesity, retarded growth and attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder have all been linked to sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

How does sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea manifest itself in children? What are some of the symptoms?

The following symptoms may occur in a child who has OSA or sleep apnea:


  • long pauses in breath while sleeping
  • loud snoring accompanied by choking, gasps and snorts
  • excessive nighttime sweating caused by the straining while breathing
  • daytime sleepiness and headaches
  • enuresis or bed wetting


  • moody
  • irritable
  • difficulty with concentration tasks
  • hyperactive

Other Consequences of OSA and sleep apnea

? The child may not produce sufficient growth hormone and therefore may have slow development and growth.
? The body?s capacity to utilize insulin may be affected (increased resistance) and lead to decrease in physical play and daytime fatigue.
? Children are at a higher risk for developing lung and heart problems, including blood pressure.

Which children are at risk for developing sleep apnea?

Certain risk factors make some children more susceptible than others for developing sleep apnea/obstructive sleep apnea. These are:
? genetic predisposition (runs in families)
? children with enlarged adenoids or tonsils
? small mid face or jaw
? larger than normal tongue
? obesity
? exposure to tobacco smoke
? children with less muscle tone such as in cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome

How is sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed in children?

If your child exhibits symptoms such as snoring, restlessness and daytime sleepiness, speak to your family doctor. He or she may refer you to a sleep clinic or sleep specialist. Your child may have to undergo a sleep study. Sleep studies help doctors record a child?s body functions while the child is sleeping. A sleep study helps doctors diagnose sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

During the study, numerous sensors are taped on to the child?s body. These are directly wired to the computer to collect information while the child is sleeping. These studies are risk free and painless. However your child may be required to spend a night at a sleep center or hospital.

During the sleep study, the technician or doctor may monitor the following:
? heart rate
? brain waves
? breathing pattern
? eye movements
? blood oxygen level
? sleep positions and body movements
? snoring or other noises

How is sleep apnea and OSA treated in children?

? If enlarged adenoids or tonsils seem to be causing the sleep apnea, your doctor may refer you to ENT specialist (ear nose and throat). This doctor may recommend a surgical removal of the adenoids and tonsils.
? If an adenotonsillectomy proves ineffective, the doctor may suggest continuous positive airway pressure therapy or CPAP. This requires the child to wear a mask that covers the mouth and nose while the child is sleeping. The mask is attached to a machine which continually pumps air into the child?s airways.
? If a child is obese, the doctor may also recommend diet changes and exercise.

Sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea can affect children. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if your child exhibits some or all of the symptoms of this sleep disorder.

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