Sleep apnea (OSA) in Children

Children with Apnea

With our concerns about infant apnea, and adult apnea, we often overlook the fact that children experience this same problem. As in adults, children with sleep apnea can be sleepy during the day. School teachers might report that the child frequently falls asleep while in class. In contrast, however, some children might become aggressive or hyperactive as a result of sleep apnea. Having apnea can cause learning disabilities, morning headaches, discipline problems, or failure to thrive. Some of the causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnoea in children include enlarged tonsils and adenoids, cleft palate or cleft palate repairs, receding chin, allergies, anatomical abnormalities, and obesity. Researchers have also expressedf concern that children with Downs Syndrome may be at risk for OSA.

Childhood is an excellent time to detect apnea and other sleep problems as parents are more likely to be present in the room while the child sleeps than they will be when the child gets older. The vast majority of sleep disorders go undiagnosed. The night-time symptoms of children who have OSA are similar to those in adults, and can include:

Of course, a child may have these symptoms and not have OSA; so a medical evaluation is essential.

Removal of the tonsils and adenoids is a very common treatment for children with apnea. In some cases, other surgeries such as jaw advancement may be indicated. Allergies need to be brought under control; or weight loss might be indicated. The physician may want the child to use CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) until he is older. If you have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnoea, it is a good idea to take a good look as to whether any of your children are demonstrating any of the symptoms. If so, take them to their pediatrician with your concerns.

NOTE: The new edition of Sleep Apnea--the Phantom of the Night contains a chapter on sleep problems in childhood and adolescence.

Click here for information on other sleep disturbances in children.

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