It occurs when the upper airway is blocked during sleep.
It causes pauses in breathing during sleep.
It upsets normal sleep patterns.
It is a serious condition that requires a doctor's treatment.
What causes sleep apnea?
Some children have facial structures that narrow the airway and cause sleep
Sleep apnea can also happen when the throat and tongue relax during sleep
and partly block the airway.
Sleep apnea can occur in overweight children if they have too much tissue
in their airway, making it narrow.
Who can get sleep apnea?
Both adults and children of all ages can have sleep apnea.
It is most common between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.
Some children are at higher risk. Overweight children, children with Down's
syndrome, and children who have large tonsils are at higher risk.
Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea. But, not every child who snores has
Sleep apnea may run in families.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea? Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. Children may not be aware of
their symptoms. Parents often notice their child's symptoms and become concerned.
They can include:
Feeling tired during the day or not refreshed from sleep.
Breathing pauses during sleep that last 3-20 seconds long.
Gasping or choking during sleep that may wake child up. The child may breathe
fine during the day.
Irregular, heavy breathing.
Sweating during sleep.
Bad dreams (child will remember) or night terrors (child will not remember).
Sleeping with an open mouth.
Chest pulling in with each breath during sleep.
Sleeping in strange positions.
Waking up confused.
High blood pressure.
Overweight or underweight.
Changes in behavior. May be irritable, depressed, or overly active.
Difficulty concentrating. May have difficulty in school.
Trouble staying awake during the day. Falling asleep at the wrong time (during
class, for example).
Gets respiratory infections often (such as colds and coughs).
Sleep apnea can lead to learning problems, developmental problems, behavior
problems, and heart problems.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
If you think your child has sleep apnea, she should be seen by a doctor.
The doctor may take a sleep test to see what the problem is.
The test is taken overnight. Computers record how your child's body acts
during sleep. It is not painful.
How is sleep apnea treated?
Treatment is different for each child.
Sometimes, taking out the tonsils will help.
Some treatments will have the child use a machine at night. The machine
does not breathe for the child, like a respirator. The machine simply blows
air into your child's airway so that it stays open wide and your child breathes
on her own.
If your child needs one of these machines, the doctor will teach you how
to use it and take care of it.
In some cases, losing weight will help.
In very, very few childhood cases, a tracheostomy may be needed. In this
surgery, a small hole is cut in the neck. A tube in the hole helps the child
Can sleep apnea be prevented?
Sleep apnea cannot be prevented.
When should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor if you are concerned about your child's sleep habits and
Call the doctor if you have questions about your child's condition.
Sleep apnea is a breathing problem that occurs when the upper airway is
blocked during sleep.
Sleep apnea happens when the throat and tongue relax during sleep and partly
block the airway or when the airway is narrow.
Children of all ages can have sleep apnea but it is most common between
the ages of 3 and 6 years old.
Symptoms can include sleeping with an open mouth, chest pulling in with
each breath, sleeping in strange positions, having a headache in the morning,
or feeling tired during the day.
The doctor may take a sleep test to see if your child has sleep apnea.
The problem can sometimes be fixed if the tonsils are taken out, if a machine
is used to help breathing at night, or if the child loses weight.
Sleep apnea can be life threatening if not treated.
Sleep apnea can not be prevented.
Call the doctor if you have questions or concerns.
Goth, D MD. Lifeline: Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome in Children. National
University Hospital. (cited 2001 December 10). URL: http://www.nuh.com.sg/lifeline/1998/11980207.asp
The Sleep Well. Childhood Sleep Apnea. 1999 March 24 (cited 2001 December
10). URL: http://www.stanford.edu/%7Edement/childapnea.html
St. Joseph's Univeristy. Sleep Apnea. (cited 2001 December 10). URL: http://www.sju.edu/SLEEPING_THROUGH_THE_NIGHT/sleep_apnea.htm
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