May 1, 2022
Millions of Americans lose many hours of sleep each night due to sleep apnea—and many more cases go undiagnosed! That means there are a lot of people out there who aren’t getting enough sleep! And while there are many different factors that contribute to sleep apnea including age, weight, and oral health, this condition can affect anyone, even children! Here’s what you need to know about the causes, signs, and potential treatment options for children’s sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea in Children
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA); it occurs when the throat and/or jaw muscles relax during sleep, causing blockage in the airway. This means your body must wake up to normalize your breathing—and it can sometimes happen hundreds of times throughout the night, leading to a serious loss of sleep! Anyone can be affected by this condition, but research shows that between 1% – 4% of children have sleep apnea, most of them between 2 and 8 years old.
Possible Causes of Children’s Sleep Apnea
Obesity is one of the main factors that contributes to a narrow airway; however, one of the more common causes in children is actually enlarged tonsils. Your child might also be at a higher risk of sleep apnea due to family history, having a large tongue, certain medical conditions like cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, and other factors.
How Do You Know if Your Child Has Sleep Apnea?
One of the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring, as the sound is indicative of difficulty breathing. Other things to be on the lookout for include:
- Coughing or choking while asleep
- Frequently breathing through the mouth
- Pauses in breathing
- Sleep terrors
You should also watch for daytime signs that indicate disrupted sleep, including:
- Poor performance in school or sports
- Difficulty paying attention
- Behavioral problems
- Poor weight gain
Treating Children’s Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea in children is very treatable; it will just require a little help! Sleep studies can be conducted to determine if your child has sleep apnea. Once diagnosed, they can begin receiving treatment via custom-made oral appliances that gradually shift the jaw to promote easier breathing. If enlarged tonsils are the source of the problem, they might need to be removed. Orthodontic treatment is also an option as your child continues to grow and develop.
Sleep apnea is detrimental to everyone, especially children! But by knowing the causes and what signs to look for, you can better protect your child against this condition and ensure that they get the sleep they need to thrive in life.
About the Author
Dr. Eric Coontz has been helping patients in Albuquerque get a better night’s sleep for several years! Dr. Coontz received his dental doctorate from the Loyola University School of Dentistry in Chicago and has taken countless hours of advanced training for dental sleep medicine and TMJ therapy, including attending the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. He also holds membership in several professional organizations including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Sleep and Breathing Academy (Diplomate status). If you have any questions for Dr. Coontz or would like to schedule an appointment, feel free to contact him through his website or by phone: (505) 433-2107.
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