Sleep Apnea, in Children Too

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects many people from young children to adults. It’s important to know that an ear, nose, and throat specialist (or Otolaryngologist) can provide patients suffering from sleep apnea with relief from the consequences of this condition.
When children experience sleep apnea, parents are often frantic to help their children. In one case, a young single mother from Houston was always afraid when her four year old son went to sleep at night. She could hear his breathing stop periodically. A sleep study revealed he had sleep apnea. She always kept his door open at night and slept lightly herself just to make sure her young son was breathing. Luckily, her son’s specialist intervened with surgery to remove his tonsils.

According to various studies, sleep apnea occurs in only about 10% of children. Cases like that above are also rare because children may not audibly snore nor audibly stop breathing. Other effects of sleep apnea in children may be sleep walking, poor/restless sleep, fatigue during the day, and poor performance in school.

In the case above, the young boy experienced a full recovery after the removal of his tonsils. Other surgical options may be to remove the adenoids. If post-operation the child still experiences sleep apnea, the use of a CPAP may be an option. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. Use of this device is available for children with a specially fitted mask. The CPAP device prevents the airways from closing or collapsing. Getting any person to use a CPAP correctly and consistently can be difficult for sleep apnea doctors. Parents have to be vigilant when monitoring their children’s use of a CPAP device in the home to make sure that the mask is secured and that the machine is functioning properly. The specialist may also recommend a sleep study with the CPAP to adjust and optimize the settings on the machine for the best results.

Alarmingly, studies have identified a link between ADHD ( attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and sleep apnea. Many parents who have children who are diagnosed with ADHD have discovered the root cause of their children’s distracted and/or hyperactive behavior is the result of sleep apnea. Parents who think that their children may be having problems focusing in school (as reported by teachers/schools) are encouraged to schedule a sleep study for their child to make sure that the behavior is not sleep disorder related. Children need more sleep at night than adults and interrupted rest due to sleep apnea can affect cognitive function and, in some reports, even have adverse effects on a child’s IQ.

Also important to note is that obesity is linked to sleep apnea. Childhood obesity is climbing at an alarming rate in the United States. Sleep apnea doctors are especially aware of this trend as the city often falls into the nationally ranked lists for high obesity rates in both adults and children. The cycle of obesity and sleep apnea in both children and adults can be difficult because daytime fatigue can prevent people from having the energy to exercise during the day. A combination of treatments can help—use of a CPAP machine to create a better, more restful sleep in combination with the change in diet and exercise can improve a child’s wellbeing on the overall by addressing all related problems.

The best line of defense for parents whose children may have problems with sleep is to find a trustworthy sleep apnea doctor. The relationship that parents build with specialists, sleep study centers, and your child’s primary care physician will be key in improving his or her health for the long term.

To learn more please visit the website of Denis K Hoasjoe, MD, a board-certified Otolaryngologist and sleep apnea Houston specialist.