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My child has trouble sleeping – Sleep apnea in children and what to look for?

“He won’t sleep!” “This is stressing me out!” “I’m afraid he’s going to stop breathing in his sleep!” That’s what pediatricians hear over and over again from parents. It can be an extremely distressing experience on many levels, but the most alarming part may be that a child with a history of apnea can go undetected for years.

So, if your child is facing trouble sleeping or you want to learn more about sleep apnea in children, you are at the right place. In this guide, we will discuss sleep apnea, its causes, treatments, and more? So, let’s get right into it.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder that occurs when the muscles in your child throat become relaxed during sleep. This relaxation causes the airway to become blocked, resulting in moments of shallow breathing or no breathing. These episodes repeatedly happen during sleep and can last for many minutes at a time.

Because it is so common, OSA happens in about two to five percent of children. Untreated OSA can potentially lead to life-threatening complications, like heart disease and hypertension.

What Causes Sleep Apnea in Children?

Sleep apnea in children is usually the result of several factors. Some of these include:

Congenital Heart Disease: This is the most common cause of OSA in children and usually occurs before birth. 

Obesity: Sleep apnea occurs more often in overweight or obese children than in those underweight or normal weight. 

The other causes include medical conditions such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, problems with the jaw, a large tongue, and a family history of OSA. 

What Are The Symptoms Of OSA?

The symptoms of sleep apnea in children are similar to those in adults, but they may differ in some ways. When your child has symptoms of OSA, look for these signs:

  • Does he snore? Loud, persistent snoring is the most obvious sign of OSA. Other sounds like gasping, choking, and grunting are also possible.

  • Is he tired during the day? Because your child isn’t getting enough oxygen, he may not be as active or energetic as he should be.

  • Does he have trouble sleeping? Your child may have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping through the night. In some cases, children with OSA sleep more than 10 hours a night, but this can indicate a problem. 

As we mentioned above, sleep apnea is characterized by repeated episodes of shallow breathing or no breathing at all. These episodes are often followed by loud snoring, gasping, choking, or grunting.

If your child has any of these symptoms, talk to your pediatrician. He will then do a physical examination and gather other information to diagnose OSA. At that time, he may want to refer you to a sleep clinic for further evaluation.

What Is The Treatment For OSA?

Just because your child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea doesn’t mean that treatment is necessary or even recommended. However, if you feel that your child needs treatment, there are several options between mild and severe.

If your pediatrician suggests mild treatment, he will likely recommend sleeping with the head of the bed raised by at least 6 inches. It can be done with a “U-shaped” pillow designed to support the head at different levels and angles. If you have an adjustable bed with a dip in the middle, this may already be in place, but some beds do not have these mechanisms built-in.

He may also recommend using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine during sleep. This will provide pressurized air through a face or mouthpiece to keep the airway open. Some children may find the CPAP machine cumbersome and difficult to tolerate.

Sleep apnea is more prevalent in children who are overweight or obese. Your child needs to maintain a healthy weight and well-balanced diet throughout life. An eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa also causes severe sleep apnea episodes.

Otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat) doctors can remove or adjust the tonsils, adenoids, and jaw. Some children may need surgery for sleep apnea. However, these are usually only considered in the most severe cases.

Doctors may also recommend a medical treatment called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), similar to the CPAP machine discussed above.

Summing Up

So, does your child have trouble sleeping? Does he snore? If you answer yes to these questions, it is important to talk to your doctor right away. Untreated sleep apnea in children can potentially lead to life-threatening complications, so you must diagnose and treat the condition as soon as possible. If you are looking for the best pediatric sleep apnea treatment, you should visit the MyPedia clinic. Our team of pediatricians will guide you through every step of treatment, so there is nothing to worry about.

Schedule your appointment now or call us at +971559311752.