You may have heard of adults suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), but it can occur in children as well. In fact, sleep apnea has been found to affect up to five percent of children, and as many as 27 percent of children exhibit one of the main symptoms of OSA: habitual snoring.
It’s often difficult to diagnose sleep apnea in children because its symptoms are similar to those caused by other disorders, including ADHD. Symptoms also display differently in children than they do in adults.
If you suspect your child suffers from sleep apnea, especially if they demonstrate any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to see your doctor for a thorough examination diagnosis.
Over time if your child’s sleep apnea is left untreated, it can lead to serious health issues, such as heart problems, diabetes, and issues with cognitive function. Sleep disorders have also been linked to weight gain and childhood obesity.
The lack of restorative sleep can eventually catch up to your child and negatively impact their experience at school. Feeling tired during the day, lacking energy, and having trouble concentrating can interrupt their studies and irritability can make it difficult to get along with their teachers and classmates.
Many of the symptoms caused by sleep apnea mimic ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), leading some children to be misdiagnosed and unnecessarily medicated. Studies show that as many as 25 percent of ADHD diagnoses may be connected to symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing like sleep apnea.
If your child has been diagnosed with a behavioral problem, such as ADHD, we recommend having them tested for sleep apnea.
If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, start by seeing his or her doctor who can recommend the appropriate tests. They may suggest an overnight sleep study and refer you to a sleep specialist.
Once your child has a diagnosis of sleep apnea, the treatments recommended by their doctor will depend on the cause of the sleep disorder. They may recommend surgery if enlarged tonsils or adenoids are blocking your child’s airway.
A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which requires your child to wear a mask throughout the night to help them breathe, may also be suggested.
For children who have mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, a customized oral appliance may be the best treatment. These devices have the advantage of being small, portable, and comfortable.
Similar to a sports mouth guard, they’re customized to your child’s anatomy and worn overnight to move the jaw forward and reposition the tongue and soft tissues, freeing up the airway.
To learn more about the sleep apnea treatments available at West Coast Snore & Sleep Apnea Solutions, contact our Vista office at (760) 666-6554 to schedule a consultation with our experienced sleep dentist, Dr. Christopher Henninger. He wants your child to enjoy growing up and living to their fullest potential.