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Signs and Solutions of Sleep Apnea in Child

sleep apnea in child
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

While sleeping, small pause in the breathing is normal. But when the pause for a bigger time, it calls a sleep apnea. For adults, that’s a very common scenario but it happens to the children as well. Your toddler should be sleeping uninterruptedly in her cozy toddler bed. But sometimes it may not happen.

Usually, when the tonsils or adenoids become larger than usual, it creates a blockage of the airway. The lungs of the children received less or disturbed fresh air.

In most of the cases, the increased tonsils or adenoids are primarily responsible for the sleep apnea of the children. In total, there are 3 kinds of sleep apnea: OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) which is caused by blockage, Central Sleep Apnea (caused due to the brain fails to signal the muscle to breathe), and the mixed apnea (combination of the previous 2).

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is most common in children, so we will mainly talk about this in the article.

Reasons for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The list of causes of obstructive sleep apnea is pretty short. But in summary, the followings are primarily responsible for obstructive sleep apnea:

  1. As mentioned above, enlarged tonsils and adenoids are primarily responsible. Naturally, these two can be enlarged, but infections and allergies are also responsible for the enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
  2. If your child is overweight or has other facial problems like receding chin or cleft palate, obstructive sleep apnea may happen. You should keep in mind that overweight can be a cause of sleep apnea only for the older children (aged between 12 to 18 years), NOT younger children who still sleeps in the crib.
  3. If your child has Down syndrome or cerebral palsy which affects the upper airway, he will have a higher chance of obstructive sleep apnea.
  4. A family history of sleep apnea.

Now that you know, why obstructive sleep apnea may happen, let’s see how you can identify whether your child has the sleep apnea.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

baby sleeping due to sleep apnea
Image Credit: Flickr

There are several signs that can tell whether your child has the sleep apnea trouble. The following signs may tell you that:

  • While sleeping, if your child snores and has difficulty in breathing, it’s a sign of sleep apnea. This is not concrete evidence though, because around 7 to 12% children snore but only 1 to 3% of children have sleep apnea.
  • If you notice your child breathes through the mouth while asleep, it’s a sign.
  • During the night while sleeping, if your baby repeatedly coughs or chokes.
  • While your baby is sleeping and sweating heavily.
  • Repeated night walking in sleep is also a clear sign.
  • During the inappropriate time of the day, if your baby has a tendency of sleeping.
  • Having very hard time to get up from the sleep.
  • Have tonsils or adenoids related other health problems.
  • If your little one is growing slower than he should because he is not getting the hormone generated from sound sleeping.
  • Difficulty in concentration to anything.
  • Bedwetting.
  • Bad performance in school.

There might be some other reasons as well but look for the above mentioned more closely.

Potential Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea has some serious bad effect on the children. It may disturb the mental and physical growth of the child as well. Usually, children with sleep apnea suffer from the followings:

  • You may notice the problem with the physical growth, learning, and behavior of your baby.
  • Sleep apnea may also cause heart and lung problems with high blood pressure. In rare cases, it might be life-threatening as well.
  • If the sleep apnea is untreated, your baby has the risk of developing hypertension and other anxiety related issues.

What to Do With Sleep Apnea?

Very first, talk to your doctor about this. She will advise you what you should do or where you should go for better treatment. Usually in such cases, seeing an otolaryngologist or a pulmonologist can be a very good idea. If allergies or overweight is causing the tonsils to grow, they may suggest you deal with them first.

How Sleep Apnea Treated?

If tonsils/adenoids are responsible for the sleep apnea, removing them from the expert doctor will solve the problem in most of the cases. Your doctor may also recommend a sleep study of the baby to monitor his/her sleeping pattern via a baby monitor. During this time, you may have to sleep with your baby as per the recommendation of the doctor to ensure comfort and safety of the baby.

After the sleep study, your doctor will recommend what you and your baby should do to overcome the sleep apnea.

Summing Up

Sleep apnea may happen to anyone and with careful treatment, it is fully recoverable. So, as a parent, you should keep your head calm and go to the doctor as early as possible. Like all diseases, the sooner sleep apnea is treated the better it is!