Does your child make whistling or breathing sounds during sleep? Does your child experience long pauses in breathing, tossing and turning in bed, mouth breathing during sleep, night sweats, or even bed-wetting? All these and more are possible signs of sleep apnea, which is more common in children than is generally recognized. It’s estimated that sleep apnea affects up to 10% of children int the US, many of them between the ages 2 and 8 years old(1).
Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Children vs. Adults
Children with sleep apnea don’t necessarily vibrate the walls of the house when they snore. Children will generally produce a whistling or strong breathing sounds during sleep. Kids with sleep apnea may also have long pauses in breathing during sleep. They may also have night sweats from the increased effort to breathe at night. Untreated sleep apnea in children can lead to behavioral problems, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), bed-wetting, sleep waking, delayed growth, failure to thrive, and other hormonal and metabolic problems. Some studies suggest that as many as 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD may also have symptoms characteristic of sleep apnea. Other studies have reported a decrease in grey matter in the brain of children with sleep apnea. Grey matter is responsible for most of our brain’s neuronal activity. Other recent studies have linked behavioral problems in children to untreated sleep apnea.
Treatment and Treatment Timing
At Texas Sleep Solutions, we believe early diagnosis is the most important step. Overnight sleep studies are best indicated for testing sleep apnea in children. Treatment options for children are similar to adults. These options include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Oral Appliances, and Surgery. Untreated sleep apnea in children can potentially lead to the symptoms stated above. These symptoms may persist into adulthood if the apnea is not treated during the child’s development.
1. Chan et. al. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Mar 1;69(5):1147-1155 (Accessed online on 6/20/17, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0301/p1147.html).