Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that could be affecting your child. This condition happens when the upper airway narrows during sleep, partially or completely blocking your child’s ability to breathe. In children, the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is enlarged tonsils. The age at which sleep apnea occurs can vary, but many children with sleep apnea are between two and eight years old. Other causes of chronic sleeping problems in children are obesity and severe allergies or respiratory infections.
Early diagnosis and treatment of this disorder is important to prevent complications with your child’s growth and cognitive development. Studies have suggested that up to twenty-five percent of children diagnosed with attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder have learning and behavioral challenges as a result of chronic sleeping problems. Here are the easiest ways to know if your child could be suffering from sleep apnea.
- Snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing. Loud and consistent snoring is usually abnormal in otherwise healthy children. If you hear your child snoring and gasping for air while sleeping, this could indicate that they have obstructive sleep apnea. These pauses in breathing can last for a few seconds up to a minute and will cause your child to keep waking up. You might also hear your child coughing or choking during the night. Snoring is never “normal” in children and is an indication that an air passage has become blocked. If you hear your child snoring, you should bring him or her for a consultation with a sleep expert right away.
- Behavioral problems. One of the biggest indications of trouble sleeping is when your child’s daytime behavior suddenly changes. Obstructive sleep apnea in children can cause them to have difficulty paying attention, be more aggressive and hyperactive, and have learning and behavioral problems that cause them to perform poorly in school. You might also notice that your child is more resistant to self-care tasks like bathing or brushing teeth.
- Night-time restlessness. Children with sleep apnea will often toss and turn throughout the night and sleep in unusual positions. You might also hear your child complain of waking up wet from sweating, bedwetting, or having frequent nightmares. A restless night of sleep can also cause morning headaches and daytime fatigue. Having less energy during the day can sometimes lead to sudden weight gain.
Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea in children. Fortunately, this sleep disorder can quickly be corrected if diagnosed and treated properly. A complete medical examination of your child should indicate if enlarged tonsils are the main contributing factor to sleep apnea. This problem can be fixed with medication or surgery up to ninety percent of the time. For children whose sleep problems are attributed to obesity, lifestyle changes are implemented to reduce their weight. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines may be recommended to help your child sleep better right away. CPAP therapy is a safe and effective treatment that involves wearing a mask while sleeping and using a machine to pump air to help facilitate controlled, relaxed breathing. For sleep apnea caused by allergies or respiratory infection, medication should provide some immediate relief.
If you think your child could be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea as a result of obesity, it will take time and patience to implement recommended lifestyle changes. Sleep apnea in children that are overweight is a vicious cycle, since each condition can adversely impact the other. Using a CPAP machine can be critical to your child’s ability to sleep better and recover from this sleeping disorder in a short time, allowing more flexibility for lifestyle changes.
Valley Sleep Therapy – We Believe in Sound Sleep for All!
If you think that your child might be suffering from sleep apnea and need more information about sleep devices or products, visit us at Valley Sleep Therapy or call us at (480) 361-0124. Browse our online CPAP supplies store or visit us in Mesa, AZ. If you want to bring your child in for a consultation with a pediatric sleep professional, make an appointment with Dr. Martinez at one of our Sleep Disorder and Treatment Centers.