Can My Daughter/Son Have Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been found to affect between 1 and 5% of children, while up to 27% of children suffer from OSA’s primary symptom, habitual snoring. OSA is most likely to occur between the ages of 2 and 8, however additional evidence has found that children with minor snoring may suffer from many of the same complications as those with OSA.
Although OSA is often difficult to detect in children and the symptoms may manifest differently than they would in an adult, there are nevertheless some symptoms and warning signs you can look for.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children
There are several symptoms that you can look for and keep track of. If your child suffers from these symptoms, we recommend that you see a doctor. Because sleep apnea in children can be different than sleep apnea in adults, and because the symptoms are often more subtle, a more comprehensive approach — including a sleep study — to diagnosing is recommended.
- Snoring: Loud, habitual snoring is the clearest symptom, especially if the snoring is accompanied by periodic blockages of breathing. This can result in gasping or snorting noises, and can also result in waking up from sleep.
- Slow growth: Sometimes, children with sleep apnea do not produce sufficient growth hormone.
- Irritability: Sleep apnea can result in anger problems, drowsiness, and overall irritability.
- Bedwetting: A sleeping disorder can increase urine production while your child is sleeping, which can result in bedwetting.
How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Child
OSA can lead to serious health issues, including heart problems such as right-sided heart failure, as well as diabetes and problems with cognitive functions. There is also a strong correlation between sleep disorders and childhood obesity. Awareness and early detection have helped make these health problems less prevalent. Diagnosing your child as early as possible is important.
Sleep apnea is often misdiagnosed as something else, including ADHD. Because daytime symptoms — such as irritability and lack of focus — are similar, without a sleep study to confirm nighttime symptoms this can lead to misdiagnoses. Patients with sleep apnea who have been prescribed ADHD medication often find that they remain tired and continue to lack energy.
If you suspect your child may have sleep apnea, ask your doctor if she recommends conducting a sleep study with a specialist.
Treating Sleep Apnea in Children
The first step is to see a doctor. That doctor will recommend a number of tests. Ask your doctor about conducting a sleep test.
If your child is diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are a number of treatments the doctor may recommend. Which treatment is ideal depends on the exact cause of OSA. If large tonsils are disrupting breathing, an ear, nose, and throat doctor may recommend removing the tonsils or the large adenoids. These minor surgeries are often very effective.
Your doctor may also recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. If the OSA is mild-to-moderate, your child may also be a candidate for a more comfortable customized oral sleep appliance.