may be obesity, allergies, asthma, GERD (gastroenterological reflux disorder), an abnormality in the physical structure of the face or jaw as well as medical and neurological conditions. In children, the most common physical problem associated with sleep apnea is large tonsils. Young children’s tonsils are quite large in comparison to the throat, peaking at five to seven years of age. Swollen tonsils can block the airway, making it difficult to breathe and could signify apnea. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 263,000 children in the U.S. have tonsillectomies each year and sleep apnea is a major reason.
Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea may contribute to daytime sleepiness and behavioral problems including difficulties at school. In one recent study presented at the American College of Chest Physicians, children who snored loudly were twice as likely to have learning problems. Following a night of poor sleep, children are also more likely to be hyperactive and have difficulty paying attention. These are also signs of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD). Apnea may also be associated with delayed growth and cardiovascular problems.
During the night, children with sleep apnea may:
- Snore loudly and on a regular basis
- Have pauses, gasps, and snorts and actually stop breathing. The snorts or gasps may waken them and disrupt their sleep.
- Be restless or sleep in abnormal positions with their head in unusual positions.
- Sweat heavily during sleep.
During the day, children with sleep apnea may:
- Have behavioral, school and social problems
- Be difficult to wake up
- Have headaches during the day, but especially in the morning
- Be irritable, agitated, aggressive, and cranky
- Be so sleepy during the day that they actually fall asleep or daydream
- Speak with a nasal voice and breathe regularly through the mouth
If you suspect your child may have symptoms of sleep apnea, talk to your doctor who may refer you to a sleep specialist and/or an overnight sleep study. This study will record the child's sleep, brain waves, body movements, heartbeat, breathing, arousals and noises to determine a diagnosis. Sleep specialists have special training in sleep medicine