Can Children Have Sleep Apnea?

You’ve probably heard of sleep apnea before; maybe it affects your dad or aunt or neighbor. But did you know that kids can have sleep apnea too? In fact, it’s more common than you may expect– approximately 20% of kids who snore and 3% of overall children suffer from sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the airway gets blocked during sleep. This happens because the throat muscles relax too much, causing those muscles to cover the airway. When the airway is blocked, the child can’t breathe properly. In adults, sleep apnea may be caused by excess weight. On the other hand, the cause of sleep apnea in children is usually enlarged tonsils.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Not surprisingly, sleep apnea often results in poor-quality sleep and tired patients. However, children may not express tiredness but rather develop behavioral changes. This can lead to daytime symptoms such as:

  • Poor grades
  • Mood issues
  • Hyperactivity
  • Short attention spans

The most obvious symptom of sleep apnea is a pause in breathing. For this reason, you may want to monitor your child’s sleep to see how they breathe throughout the night. This can help you find the best course of treatment– nighttime signs and symptoms to look out for are:

  • Snoring
  • Wetting the bed
  • Gasping, choking, or snorting sounds
  • Restlessness
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Night terrors
  • Night sweats

Additionally, children with sleep apnea may have recurrent ear or strep infections. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to talk with Dr. Wilk. If left untreated, sleep apnea could lead to other risks.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is often caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils in children. This explains why a child with sleep apnea may have recurrent ear infections or strep throat. Overweight children are also at a greater risk. Children with birth defects, low muscle tone, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or a family history of sleep apnea may also develop sleep apnea. As long as the airway has been narrowed, sleep apnea is likely to develop.

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

If sleep apnea is suspected, your child may be referred to a sleep apnea specialist or “sleep doctor”. Reputable practices such as Denver Sleep Apnea Center are the most surefire way to manage your child’s sleep apnea quickly and efficiently. They’ll monitor the child’s oxygen overnight to see if further testing is needed. Other tests and imaging include X-rays and an overnight sleep study.

What Happens if Your Child Has Sleep Apnea?

Treatment for sleep apnea is important because a lack of treatment can cause long-term heart problems and poor growth. The treatment for sleep apnea depends on what’s causing it. If the adenoids or tonsils are enlarged, surgical removal of one or both is common. If a child is overweight, weight loss and lifestyle changes may help. If neither of these is the cause, a mask that blows air into the child’s airway (called a CPAP) may need to be worn at night. Alternatively, an oral appliance can be fitted to keep the airway open.

If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to get in contact with Dr. Steven Wilk at the Denver Sleep Apnea Center in Denver, CO. With many years of expertise in sleep apnea, Dr. Wilk has helped many children find a solution to restless nights and difficult days. Schedule a consultation and begin your journey to better sleep today!

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