Sleep Apnea in Kids is More Common Than You Think
Until recently, sleep apnea was thought of as a condition that almost exclusively affects adults. However, new studies conducted globally have highlighted how children are also prone to developing this breathing condition. In one 2010 study published by the Korean Journal of Pediatrics, an estimated 3% of children are affected by pediatric obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). In an earlier study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, an estimated 1-10% of American children suffer from OSAS. Unfortunately, these are both likely conservative estimates.
One of the most biggest reasons why OSAS has flown under the radar for so long is misdiagnosis. Just like adults, kids with sleep apnea experience daytime fatigue, unusual behavior, daydreaming, are irritable, and may snore deeply when they sleep. However, these symptoms often translate into poor school performance, which in turn gets misdiagnosed as attention deficit disorder (ADD). This often causes children with OSAS to be medicated for a condition they don’t have and continue to miss out on important treatment.
Why Sleep Apnea in Children is So Serious
OSA is dangerous to your overall health, regardless of age. In kids however, the consequences can stunt development. For children, the causes of sleep apnea are often anatomically related – enlarged tonsils, large tongues, small necks, or too small jaws. Each of these can obstruct airflow, causing the pauses in breathing each night. In addition to triggering apneic episodes, these can open the door for oral health problems like bite misalignment, tooth impaction, and even gum disease and cavities.
Another reason why pediatric sleep apnea is so serious – kids need their rest. In the Cleveland Clinic Foundation study, it was found that behavior and cognitive deficits are more common in children who are missing out on sleep because of OSA. Slipping grades, hormonal imbalance, and high blood pressure are all issues that can be traced back to sleep apnea. Obesity – another cause of pediatric sleep apnea – presents its own serious health risks to kids that are still growing.
What are the Warning Signs Your Child has Sleep Apnea
Thanks to greater awareness, it’s getting easier for children to get the correct sleep apnea diagnosis. If you notice your child experiencing any of the following symptoms, we recommend bringing them in for a screening:
- Nighttime bedwetting and strange sleeping position
- Deep, raucous snoring
- Daytime fatigue or daydreaming
- Irritability, crankiness, or difficulty focusing
Getting Tested and Treated
Proactive diagnosis is a key element to getting your child the care they deserve. To learn more about treating children with sleep apnea, call Integrative Family Dentistry of Mebane, NC for a screening and consultation. We work closely with local pulmonologists and pediatricians to obtain a diagnosis then create a comprehensive treatment plan that improves your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Call today to learn more.