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Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that doesn’t just arise in adults. In fact, children can also be afflicted with this disorder. Much like adults, sleep apnea in children can have a serious impact on their overall health and well-being. As a parent, recognizing and understanding the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for pediatric sleep apnea is crucial. Every child deserves to get a good night’s sleep to promote healthy development.

Sleep Disorder

Sleep apnea is actually a serious sleep disorder that affects breathing while you sleep. During sleep apnea “episodes,” breathing is paused or you are taking shallow breaths. These constant pauses can last for a few seconds or up to a minute and may occur multiple times during your sleep.

In children, sleep apnea is commonly caused by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This happens when their airway becomes partially or completely blocked while they slumber, resulting in unhealthy and disrupted breathing cycles.

Signs and Symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea in children is critical for early detection and timely intervention. Some common signs and symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea in your child include the following:

  • Loud snoring: Persistent and loud snoring is often one of the first indicators of sleep apnea in children. This snoring can also manifest along with gasping or choking sounds.
  • Pauses in breathing: You may also notice that your child’s breathing stops momentarily during sleep.
  • Restless sleep: Children with sleep apnea may toss and turn frequently during sleep and even experience night sweats and bedwetting.
  • Daytime sleepiness: Sleep apnea can lead to poor-quality sleep, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty waking up in the morning, and frequent napping.
  • Behavioral and learning difficulties: Sleep apnea can contribute to behavioral issues such as irritability, hyperactivity, and difficulty concentrating in school.
  • Growth and developmental issues: If left untreated, sleep apnea can affect your child’s growth and development. It may lead to poor weight gain, delayed physical and cognitive development, and stunted height.

Treatment Options

When it comes to treating sleep apnea in your child, early diagnosis is crucial, and there are a few common treatment options to consider.

  • Adenotonsillectomy: In many cases, enlarged tonsils and adenoids contribute to sleep apnea in children. Surgical removal of these tissues, known as adenotonsillectomy, is often the first-line treatment for pediatric sleep apnea.
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): CPAP therapy involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth during sleep. The machine delivers a constant stream of air pressure, keeping the airway open and preventing pauses in breathing.
  • Oral appliances: For children experiencing mild to moderate sleep apnea, oral appliances may be prescribed. These devices help position the jaw and tongue to keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Weight management: In cases where obesity is a contributing factor to sleep apnea, weight management through a healthy diet and regular exercise can often significantly improve symptoms.
  • Sleep hygiene and behavior modification: Establishing healthy sleep habits, such as sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and creating a calming bedtime routine, can be beneficial. Behavioral interventions may also help address sleep-related issues.
  • Regular follow-ups: Children with sleep apnea should have regular follow-up appointments to monitor their progress and make necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Seeking Help

By becoming aware of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and seeking medical attention, your child’s life can be transformed. With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, your child can once again experience better sleep quality and daytime functioning, along with enhanced overall well-being. Call to learn more!