Experiencing small pauses in breathing while we sleep is perfectly normal and certainly no cause for alarm. Prolonged amounts of time spent not breathing or breathing irregularly can be detrimental to health and result in low blood oxygen levels. Although the disorder is most common in adult men, sleep apnea in children is not abnormal. In fact, as many as 4% of preschoolers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
Common Causes of Sleep Apnea in Children
Most children who experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Both the tonsils and adenoids are often removed in young children as a result of obstructed breathing. Recent studies reveal a link between childhood obesity and OSA. For optimal well-being, our sleep apnea doctor often recommends a healthy diet and adequate amounts of sleep for both children and adults.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children:
Loud snoring while sleeping
Breathing through the mouth
Sustained periods of no breathing at all
Strange sleeping positions
Tossing and turning during the night
Recurring ear, nose, and throat infections (often related to enlarged tonsils and adenoids)
Trouble paying attention or performing in the classroom
Wetting the bed
Treatments for Sleep Apnea in Children
As every case is unique, treating sleep apnea requires closely examining the specific causes. Surgical removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids is a common way to relieve trouble breathing at night. An ear, nose, and throat doctor evaluates children for this procedure. Surgery cannot help certain cases. For these, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may prove effective in relieving sleep apnea symptoms. Masks are made small enough to fit young children. Weight loss, a nutrition plan, and an exercise regimen may be suggested for overweight or obese children.
Leaving OSA untreated can result in stunted growth, heart problems, and high blood pressure. The health of your child now directly impacts how he or she will feel as an adult. Instilling good sleep habits early will help your child maintain them later. Do not let OSA get in the way of your child growing. Call our doctor today to find out more about identifying or treating sleep apnea for children.