ANCSLEEP BLOG

Snoring Child? Sleep Apnea in Children

Posted by Tyler Britton on May 5, 2021 11:59:00 AM

Sleep apnea and children - Anchorage Sleep Center

What is Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea is a medical condition where you stop breathing many times throughout the night and, in consequence, momentarily wake up throughout the night. Symptoms of sleep apnea in children are also the same as adults, though you might describe some of the symptoms more in "child" terms:

  • Wake up throughout the night
  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive daytime tiredness
  • Less  capable of managing anxiety and stress
  • "Acting out"
  • Chronic "fussiness"

Also for children and adults, the side effects of inadequate sleep are remarkably the same:

  • Decreased performance in nearly every area of life
  • Increased stress, anxiety, and rates of depression
  • Increased risk of numerous medical problems

Why Sleep Apnea in Children is Harder to Recognize

That being said, sleep apnea in children may be difficult to identify outside of a formal diagnoses at a sleep center for several reasons:

  • Children may be less apt than adults to reports signs of sleep apnea because, you know, they're children!
  • Children are likely in school all day long and you are not able to observe their behavior, but hear about it second hand
  • We tend to not think of children having nighttime sleep related problems
  • You are unlikely to be with your child during the night when they wake up or snore due to sleep apnea
  • Symptoms of sleep apnea overlap with many other common childhood behavioral symptoms, such as ADD

 

What Causes Sleep Apnea in Children

Obstructive sleep apnea in children has the same causes as adults: something obstructs the back of the throat and causes the child to stop breathing.

Likely, this is due to the throat muscles in the back of the throat relaxing. When this happens, the back of the throat/tongue/tonsils are pressed against the roof of the mouth when you breath in.

This either fully or mostly obstructs your child's ability to breath. After a while (usually 10-20 seconds) they will rouse and start breathing again. They won't remember rousing in the morning, but they will certainly lose a lot of sleep because of it.

This choke/wake cycle can happen anywhere from 5 (mild) to 30 (severe) times per hour.

What are Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children

As said, the primary symptoms of sleep apnea in children are:

  • Wake up throughout the night
  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive daytime tiredness
  • Less  capable of managing anxiety and stress
  • "Acting out"

In reality, unless you notice the loud snoring or their waking up throughout the night, you might see symptoms such as:

  • Behavioral problems in school
  • Trouble paying attention or keeping focus in school
  • Chronic melt downs or irritability that you feel is uncharacteristic
  • Fussiness more common than contentedness
  • Clumsiness
  • Complaining of headaches in the morning
  • Really hard time waking up in the morning
  • Falling asleep at school
  • Excessive tiredness in the evenings, such as during dinner
  • Other behavior problems you notice or your child's teacher notice

This happens because children with sleep apnea become sleep deprived, and don't even get close to the amount of sleep they need for healthy functioning, such as shown below:

recommended-sleep-duration-for-children-and-teens

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed and Treated

Sleep apnea in children is diagnosed usually in a similar manner to adults:

  • You notice some of the above described symptoms
  • You consult with your doctor and explain your concerns
  • They may give you a referral to a sleep clinic (covered by insurance, usually)
  • Your child has a sleep study
  • If they have sleep apnea, they receive a diagnoses

Treating sleep apnea in children can go one of two routes:

  1.  Surgery
  2. CPAP or BiPAP device

In children, surgery can often be the preferred route because it is likely to be more effective than getting your child to wear a CPAP device. CPAP might be a good place to start, and if that fails you can discuss surgery options (again, low-invasive surgery) - your doctor will likely have good advice to give on this topic after reviewing your child.

If you live in Alaska and are concerned that your child may have sleep apnea, consult with our team to discuss how a sleep consultation and sleep study may provide answers and the start to healing.

Get a Sleep Medicine Consultation Now

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