Sleep apnea isn’t just a sleep disorder that affects adults. Children can also be affected by sleep apnea, which can lead to problems at school and health issues without treatment.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs when children experience breathing pauses while they are asleep. An estimated one to four percent of children between two and eight years old have this condition. Sleep apnea can happen when airflow is obstructed due to enlarged tonsils, adenoids or other structures. When this occurs, children wake up from sleep briefly. Although they might not be aware that they wake up, these awakenings can result in poor sleep quality over time.
Certain risk factors can increase children’s risk of having sleep apnea. These include being overweight, having a narrower airway or having nasal congestion. If your child has any of these risk factors, it’s important to watch for signs of sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children
Sleep apnea can cause any of the following symptoms in children:
- Snoring that is loud and occurs frequently, along with snorting or gasping sounds
- Extended breathing pauses during sleep, especially if they occur on a regular basis
- Night sweats due to the strain of attempting to breathe
- Breathing through the mouth at night
- Frequent tossing and turning
- Sleepiness or drowsiness during the day
- Irritability due to poor sleep quality
- Trouble focusing or concentrating at school
- Having headaches in the morning
Risks & Related Conditions
Some children eventually grow out of this sleep disorder. However, it can cause serious problems in the interim. Sleep apnea has been associated with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, academic trouble, bed-wetting, growth problems and sleepwalking. Children with sleep apnea also have a higher risk of becoming obese due to a lack of good quality sleep for long periods of time.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options in New York
Not all children with sleep apnea undergo treatment, especially if the condition is mild or infrequent. Those who have more severe sleep apnea might require treatment in order to relieve symptoms and help them get better sleep. Treatment options that are used include the following:
- Surgery: One of the most common types of treatment for sleep apnea is having enlarged adenoids or tonsils removed to allow air to flow freely during sleep.
- PAP therapy: For some children, positive airway pressure therapy (PAP) is used to treat sleep apnea. This involves working with sleep experts in order to determine the most effective pressure settings.
- Oral appliances: Oral devices can be used to help keep children’s airway open during sleep.
- Lifestyle changes: Losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight by exercising and eating healthy can help ease sleep apnea symptoms in some children.
- Health management: Managing issues that can increase the risk of sleep apnea, such as allergies, asthma or other nasal problems can help relieve symptoms.
When children show symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to seek help from sleep experts. This helps ensure that children get the proper care for this sleep disorder in order to lower the risk of complications. The right treatment for your child will depend on certain factors, such as age and severity of sleep apnea symptoms.
If you believe your child has sleep apnea or shows symptoms, please contact eos sleep to set up an appointment. Our board-certified sleep specialists can provide the most effective treatment to improve their sleep and overall health.