Specialties & Services

Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts. It is a potentially serious because not only can sudden drops in the levels of oxygen in your blood can increase blood pressure and strain your cardiovascular system, but also disrupt your ability to get proper sleep.

Sleep apnea affects people of all ages, but about 2-10% of children suffer from obstructive sleep apnea with varying symptoms and severity.

How do I know if my child has sleep apnea?

Usually the first sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring. However, many children experience snoring. In fact, approximately 10-20% experience snoring and many don’t have obstructive sleep apnea. What you need to look out for is gasping for air between the snoring. You may hear a snore, a long pause, then a louder snore or huge inhale which will sound like a snort. Between snoring, your child may also breathe heavily. It is recommended you check on your child at night. If you suspect they have sleep apnea, you should listen for their breathing patterns and monitor their sleeping position.

Children can show signs of sleep apnea during the day as well. Mainly, if they have a hard time waking up, are tired during the day and daydream, or have headaches in the morning, it may be a sign of sleep apnea.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Some causes of sleep apnea in children include:

  • Being overweight
  • Family history of obstructive sleep apnea
  • Deformities of airways, such as the throat, mouth or sinus
  • Sleeping in odd positions, or with their mouth open
  • Certain medical conditions, such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

The only way to properly diagnose sleep apnea is through a sleep study. If your child experiences the symptoms above, you may want to schedule a sleep study. The study monitors brain and body functions during sleep that can indicate whether or not your child has sleep apnea.

Sensors will be placed on certain parts of the child and they will need to sleep overnight in the sleep center. We try to make the child as comfortable as possible, and give a stress-free experience for them and for the parent. The sleep study monitors eye movements, noise, breathing pattern, blood oxygen levels and heart rate.

Treating Sleep Apnea

In many mild cases, lifestyle changes and some medication can help eliminate sleep apnea. The doctor may recommend your child loses weight, changes their diet, daily activity and sleep routine.

In more severe cases, sometimes removing tonsils and adenoids can help open up the airways and stop sleep apnea. However, if this is not the cause, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy may be recommended. This is when your child will wear a mask, covering the nose and mouth, that’s connected to a machine that continuously pumps air into their air passages.

If you have questions about sleep apnea, please call one of our sleep centers, or make an appointment with one of our pediatric sleep specialists.