Sleep Apnea in Children

All-inclusive Information About Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea in children is a commonly observed sleep disorder. Although it is observed in many children, in some cases, it may lead to serious consequences. Go through the article for symptoms, causes and treatment for sleep apnea.
SleepHearty Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Sleep is the best way to relax our body after the day long exertion. It is very important for our children to get proper sleep as their body is weaker than ours. Improper sleep may result in unhealthy body. Sleep apnea in children is quite common than adults. Apnea is a term used to describe the pause we take when we breath. Brief pauses are considered to be very normal but when this duration goes up to 20 second, it can disrupt the sleep. This prolonged pause can result in the decrease of oxygen level in the body. So to keep it in check, it is very important to know about it. Usually apnea can be classified into three types:
  • Obstructive apnea
  • Central apnea and
  • Mixed apnea
Obstructive apnea is the most common sleep disorder found in children. It is caused due to the obstruction of the airways like adenoids and enlarged tonsils. It usually occurs while sleeping as the muscles are more in the relax state at this time. Central apnea takes place in the infants. It is caused when the part of the brain which is responsible to control the breathing does not work efficiently and is unable to manage the process properly. Whereas mixed apnea is a combination of obstructive apnea and central apnea. It may occur in infant and young children also.

Causes
Sleep apnea may result in various health problems as the body will not be able to get complete and proper rest. Here are some of the causes.
  • The most common cause of sleep apnea are the enlarged or swollen tonsils and adenoids. They usually block the airways when the child is sleeping. As children have narrow airways as compared to the adults, even a small swelling may result in this condition.
  • Tumors in the throat can also cause sleep apnea. Specially at night when the baby sleeps, the muscles relax and the airways are blocked by the tumors.
  • Child obesity is also a reason behind obstructive sleep. Due to the excess fat in the chest and other part, the airways become narrow and this may result in disturbed sleep.
  • Obstructive sleep may also be caused due to immature brain, as the part of the brain responsible for the proper functioning of breathing process is still underdeveloped. This cause is usually seen in infants.
Symptoms
The most common sleep apnea symptom is snoring. But this is just one symptom. Apart from this, there are many other symptoms too. Following are some of them.
  • Child may have restless and incomplete sleep.
  • Sleep disorder and bedwetting has a very deep relation. It has been found that the child with sleep apnea problem is more prone to bedwetting, than the child without this problem. So it can be considered as a symptom.
  • The child may sleep with open mouth to get more air because of the improper supply of oxygen from the airways.
  • Child may have excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Behavioral change, lack of attention, irritation, aggression, can also be observed.
Treatment
Following are some of the treatments which can help to overcome sleep apnea. Long term effects of this disorder are not known yet but can be cured with the treatments.
  • Obesity is one of the causes of sleep apnea so if the child is obese, try to help him reduce the weight.
  • There are many medicines available in the market that can help your child to get rid of nasal and sinus congestion. This may help him to get a sound sleep.
  • Surgery is also suggested, as tonsils and adenoids are the causes of sleep disorders, they can surgically be removed from the body. This will give your child a non-obstructive and proper sleep.
  • Doctor may advise you to use continuous positive airways pressure if the surgery was not able to improve the condition. This is a type of a mask which the child has to wear while sleeping. This mask is connected to a machine which maintains a proper airflow through the airways.
  • Tracheotomy is the last option for treating sleep apnea. This is a surgical procedure through which a pipe is inserted in the body from the neck. This valve remains close when the child is awake and opens up as the child sleeps. This treatment is used only when all the above treatments fail.
So, now that know about sleep apnea, you can take better care of your child's sleep. Consult your doctor if you observe the above symptoms and help your child to get rid of this problem.