Addressing Sleep Apnea in Children

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You’ve heard of adults suffering from sleep apnea, but did you know a child can suffer, too? While it might not always cross your mind, it is definitely extremely important to think about because children suffer more than adults do when it comes to sleep apnea. Children appear to suffer more from sleep apnea because they have smaller lungs than adults, which means they have less oxygen in reserve. As a result, children take frequent, shallow breaths rather than slow, deep breaths. As a result, this can cause a child to have too much carbon dioxide in their blood. To make matters worse, adults have fragmented sleep where they briefly wake up after their breathing stops, but children don’t do that. When pauses in breathing occur in children, they do not wake up in response. Instead, they have a higher “arousal threshold” than adults, which makes their sleep patterns normal with sleep apnea. In order to help, let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea in children.  

The Signs and Symptoms

Throughout the night, a child with sleep apnea might experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Loud snoring on a regular basis
  • Pauses, gasps, snorts and stoppage of breathing
  • Waking or disruptions due to snorts or gasps
  • Be restless or sleep in abnormal positions with their head in an unusual position
  • Sweat heavily during sleep

Additionally, if a child suffers from sleep apnea they might also experience quite a bit of symptoms throughout the day while they are awake, including:

  • Behavioral, school and social problems
  • Be difficult to wake up
  • Have headaches during the day, especially morning
  • Be irritable, agitated, aggressive and cranky
  • So sleepy during the day they actually fall asleep or daydream
  • Speak with a nasal voice and breathe regularly through the mouth

The Causes

Sleep apnea in children is associated with quite a few specific causes, including the following:

  • Obesity
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • GERD (gastroenterological reflux disorder)
  • Abnormality in the physical structure of the face or jaw
  • Medical and neurological conditions

However, the most common physical problem associated with sleep apnea in children is large tonsils. Peaking at five to seven years of age, young children often have quite large tonsils in comparison to the throat, which can cause a blockage of the airway resulting in breathing difficulty and sleep apnea.

If you suspect your child may have symptoms of sleep apnea, visit Dr. Pira Sadeghi at TMJ & Sleep Apnea Help Center of Glendale, CA and surrounding areas.