Many people go undiagnosed with sleep apnea and do not even know if could be drastically affecting their lives. SDB or Sleep-Disordered Breathing is when people have difficulty breathing only when they are sleeping. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a form of sleep-disordered breathing that causes snoring. The airway gets blocked completely or partially and is done in episodes, which the body believes you are choking. “Approximately 10 percent of children snore regularly and about 2-4 % of the pediatric population has OSA. Recent studies indicate that mild SDB or snoring may cause many of the same problems as OSA in children.” Find out more to see if your child has sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea in Children
When a child is sleeping and has sleep apnea, their breathing will get disrupted. The heart rate will slow down, the blood pressure will rise, and the brain becomes aroused disrupting the sleep. Disrupted sleep can also cause the oxygen levels in the blood to drop.
The main symptom is regular snoring. The snoring can be interrupted with gasps of breathing and other noises associated with waking up. Because the child is not getting a good amount of sleep, they will be sleepy and irritable during the day and have difficulty concentrating.
Overweight children have a high risk of sleep apnea because of the fat deposits around the neck and throat, making the airway narrower. The consequences of untreated sleep apnea in children are as following:
- Obesity and increased resistance to insulin
- Snoring in social situations such as sleepovers
- Behavioral problems such as being moody, disruptive, and inattentive
- Increased risk of high blood pressure
- Stunted growth hormone production
How To Diagnose
If your child has these symptoms while sleep, you should tell their doctor.
- Loud snoring
- Thrashing in bed
If you notice your child start snoring regularly and have changed in behavior, such as acting out, there is a high chance that they may be suffering from sleep apnea.
To properly diagnose your child, they have to take a sleep study or polysomnography (PSG). It is not a painful test, but wires do need to be attached to the head and body of the child to monitor the brain waves, eye movement, and muscle tension.
Treatment for diagnosed sleep apnea in children can be a CPAP machine or surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids. Surgery is only recommended for children with enlarged tonsils and adenoids and persistent symptoms causing sleep disordered breathing.