Sleep Apnea In Children: What Are Some Signs That Your Child May Have It?

When people think of sleep issues in children, they normally think of things like bedwetting and frequent nightmares. These are both common in kids, and they normally don't pose a problem — kids almost always grow out of both as they age.

What isn't commonly thought of is that children can also suffer from sleep apnea. Unlike nightmares and bedwetting, sleep apnea can cause serious health consequences. It occurs when a child stops breathing periodically during the night, then gasps for air in order to quickly take in a large amount of oxygen.

These repeated episodes greatly disrupt normal sleep, and they place a large amount of stress on a child's heart and lungs. In order to prevent long-term health consequences, it's important to treat sleep apnea in children. To learn some signs that your child may have sleep apnea, read on.

Your Child Snores at Night

Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea in both children and adults. The snoring is caused by children needing to breathe through their mouths while they sleep in order to take in enough oxygen between apnea episodes during the night. This is combined with the fact that children who have this condition typically have an obstructed airway — the large volume of air moving through the narrow airway results in the snoring sound.

In children, the narrowed airway is often caused by overly large tonsils that stop air from moving easily into your child's lungs. Being overweight can also contribute to a narrow airway, since the excess weight pushes down on it while a child is sleeping.

Your Child Seems Sleepy During the Day

Fatigue during the day is another sign of sleep apnea in children. The apnea episodes during the night will interrupt sleep every time they occur, which prevents your child from getting a full night's rest. If your child can't sleep throughout the whole night, your child may seem excessively tired during the day, may have trouble getting out of bed and may ask to take frequent naps.

Your Child Has Difficulty Concentrating at School

When someone isn't getting a full night's sleep, they'll have difficulty concentrating while they're awake. In children, this normally shows as poor school performance. Difficulty concentrating in school can look like ADHD symptoms, with an inability to focus on the tasks that they're assigned or pay attention to the teacher. If you're concerned that your child may be unable to focus due to poor sleep, it's a good idea to speak to their teacher and ask them how well they're able to concentrate in class.

Sleep apnea in children is diagnosed by having your child undergo a sleep study. Your child will wear several medical monitors that are able to detect how many apnea episodes they have while they're sleeping during the night. Determining the number of episodes allows a sleep doctor to find out if your child has sleep apnea along with its severity.

Thankfully, sleep apnea in children can be treated easily. Your child can use a continuous positive airway pressure device during the night, which is a machine that blows air into your child's airway in order to widen it and help it stay open. Using a CPAP machine during the night greatly reduces sleep apnea symptoms and helps your child sleep easily at night and have more energy during the day. If you think that your child may have sleep apnea, contact a clinic in your area that can perform a sleep study and have your child tested for apnea episodes.