Childhood Sleep Apnea
Could My Child Have Sleep Apnea?Sleep apnea is known to affect 1 to 3 percent of children, but because there may be many unreported cases, could actually affect more. Sleep apnea can affect your child's sleep and behavior and if left untreated can lead to more serious problems. Because sleep apnea can be difficult to diagnose, it is important to monitor your child for the symptoms and have a doctor see her if she exhibits any.
What is sleep apnea?Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when breathing is disrupted during sleep. This occurs when the airway is blocked, resulting in choking that causes a slower heart rate and increased blood pressure, alerting your child's brain and causing him to wake up.
What are the symptoms?The first sign that your child may have sleep apnea is loud snoring that occurs regularly. You may also notice behavioral changes. Due to a lack of sleep, he or she may be more cranky, have more or less energy, and have difficulty concentrating in school.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?If you notice that your child has any of those symptoms, have him or her checked by an otolaryngologist - head and neck surgeon, who can use a sleep test to determine sleep apnea. For the test, electrodes are attached to the head to monitor brain waves, muscle tension, eye movement, breathing, and the level of oxygen in the blood. The test is not painful and can be performed in a sleep laboratory or at home.
Results can vary, so it is important to have the otolaryngologist determine whether your child needs treatment. Often, in mild cases, treatment will be delayed while you are asked to monitor your child and let the doctor know if the symptoms worsen. In severe cases, the doctor will determine the appropriate treatment.
What are the dangers if sleep apnea is left untreated?
Because sleep apnea can lead to more serious problems, it is important that it be properly treated. When left untreated, sleep apnea can cause:
- Sleep deprivation
- Increased bed wetting
- Slowed growth
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Breathing difficulty
- Heart trouble