According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, an estimated 1 to 4 percent of children suffer from sleep apnea— many of them being between 2 and 8 years old. Shocking, isn’t it? Learn more about sleep apnea in children below!
Possible signs of sleep apnea in children include:
- Snoring, snorting, coughing, or choking
- Long pauses in breathing while sleeping
- Tossing and turning often in bed
- Primarily breathing through their mouth while asleep
- Experiencing night sweats due to having to work harder to breathe
Untreated pediatric sleep problems can be linked to other issues such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Studies have suggested that as many as 25 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD may actually have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and that their learning difficulty and behavior problems can be partially attributed to chronically fragmented sleep. Bed-wetting, sleep-walking, slowed growth, hormonal/ metabolic problems, ‘failure to thrive’, and obesity may also be related to sleep apnea.
Diagnosis and Tests
If you believe your child could be suffering from sleep apnea, you may want to seek out the expertise of a pediatrician who specializes in sleep disorders. Getting an accurate diagnosis will likely require a an overnight stay in a sleep lab.
Testing might include:
Polysomnogram- Medical professional evaluate your child’s condition during an overnight sleep study. This test uses sensors applied to the body to record brain wave activity, breathing patterns, snoring, oxygen levels, heart rate, and muscle activity while your child sleeps.
Oximetry- If obstructive sleep apnea is suspected, and a full polysomnogram isn’t needed or available, an overnight recording of oxygen levels might help make the diagnosis. This can be done at home, but it sometimes fails to give the diagnosis.
Electrocardiogram- Sensor patches with wires attached (electrodes) measure the electrical impulses given off by your child’s heart. Doctors may use this test to determine if your child has an underlying heart condition.
When it comes down to treatment, surgical removal of the adenoids and tonsils is the most common approach. If an adenotonsillectomy is not carried out or does not alleviate the issue, positive airway pressure therapy might be prescribed. Oral appliances may even be used in some cases, especially in adolescents whose facial bone growth is nearly complete. Medications such as topical nasal steroids might also ease sleep apnea symptoms for some children with mild obstructive sleep apnea. For children with allergies, montelukast might help relieve symptoms when used alone, or with nasal steroids.