Sleep apnea is a condition which affects breathing during sleep and it occurs in both children and adults. Childhood sleep apnea can cause a number of issues like poor behaviour, night terrors and disrupted sleep, so it’s best to diagnose and treat it as soon as possible. Children can be diagnosed with paediatric obstructive sleep apnea at any age and it is crucial for parents to look out for the signs of a nighttime breathing disorder if they have any concerns.
Paediatric obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is when children stop breathing in their sleep, usually because of an obstruction in the airway. This can lead to disturbed sleep, poor behaviour and growth difficulties, so diagnosing and treating it as soon as possible is essential.
To diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, a careful history and examination are undertaken. A few children may need a sleep study (where children usually undergo a sleep study at home to monitor their breathing) but this is commonly not required. A. Children can also have other conditions that make sleep apnea more likely, including obesity, cleft palate, Down syndrome, neuromuscular disorders, enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
Signs of childhood sleep apnea
If you’re worried your child might have sleep apnea there are a number of signs to look out for including snoring and heavy breathing during sleep. If your child has pauses, snorts or gasps in their sleep (particularly for more than 10s) it is important to check for OSA. Other signs to look out for include restless sleep, bedwetting, sweating, night terrors, sleepwalking, daytime sleepiness and behavioural problems as it’s important children can sleep properly so they are well-rested. Children with sleep apnea may also perform poorly at school due to (poor attention) or may display learning problems. Hyperactivity is also a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea.
For more information, please read our article on sleep apnea and how it affects you.
Treatment for childhood sleep apnea
One of the most common causes of childhood sleep apnea is enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids which can be removed by surgery. The best treatment for childhood sleep apnea will depend on the symptoms, severity and age of your child. Surgery (adenotonsillectomy) is the commonest treatment for childhood obstructive sleep apnoea.
Book a consultation
If you’re worried your child might suffer from sleep apnea, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention, especially if it’s a recurring problem. Call our specialist ENT clinic in Sheffield today or book a consultation online.