Sleep Apnea In Kids?

I got an email a few minutes ago from a sleep specialist. I usually don’t delve into topics like this on the show or the blog, but recently a friend mentioned on a message forum that her son suffers from sleep apnea. I had no idea that kids could have this issue, but apparently it can cause all sorts of symptoms in a child that can mimic other problems.

Evidently some children who “snore” actually have sleep apnea. During the day these kids may be tired, have dark circles under their eyes and have problems in school that look like learning disorders.

Here’s the article:

In today’s stressful times, a good night’s sleep is hard to come by. Issues that arise in your everyday life can take a toll on your ability to relax your mind and rest soundly. If able to get some shut-eye, problems such as snoring may wake you and have a detrimental effect on your everyday life. The issue of snoring does not only affect adults, however. More than 10% of children suffer from snoring part or most of the night while sleeping. What most people do not know is that your child’s loud snoring can be an indicator of a far more serious problem- Sleep Apnea.

Creative Commons License photo credit: lepiaf.geo

According to Dr. Dan Smith, “approximately 100 to 200 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep Apnea can cause long-term health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and impotency.” Below is Dr. Smith’s list of the 4 symptoms of Sleep Apnea that should not be ignored:

1. “Snoring that is loud enough to wake your child up” is the first indicator of OSA, according to Dr. Smith. This is not the occasional snort or two but that incessant, honking-level snoring

2. “If your child ceases breathing intermittently while sleeping.” When OSA occurs, the tongue can be sucked against the back of the throat. This blocks the upper airway and airflow stops or is greatly diminished

3. “Suddenly waking up because he or she can not breathe and has shortness of breath or gasping.” This is directly linked to symptom #2, says Dr. Smith. When the oxygen level in the brain becomes low enough due to the blockage, the sleeper partially awakens, the obstruction in the throat clears, and the flow of air starts again, usually with a loud gasp

4. “If your child is excessively drowsy during the day.” This does not mean hitting the proverbial wall at 3 pm that a quick snack can fix or throwing a temper tantrum due to exhaustion. This means actually accidentally falling asleep during the day (not during nap time)

Dr. Smith states that “while snoring is typically a problem that is associated with men, it is a condition that does not discriminate.” Dr. Smith says men, women and children can suffer from OSA. It is one of the most misdiagnosed medical problems – especially in children. Loud and regular nightly snoring is often abnormal in otherwise healthy children. If a child suffers from OSA, he or she may be getting too little oxygen and too much carbon dioxide. This condition can lead to poor heart and lung development, behavioral problems, and even death if unchecked.

Thankfully, health centers have opened to help diagnose and treat sleep apnea. Dr. Dan Smith recently opened the Focus Center for Sleep Apnea and Snoring. This Center provides care from a team of Medical and Dental Specialists, to create a more complete solution to OSA by combing the highest technology available in the field as well as continued advanced education.

If your child suffers from the above 4 symptoms, it is in his or her best interest to be given medical attention. At the Focus Center for Sleep Apnea and Snoring, the diagnosis process is easy and follows these steps:

1. Patients (or the parents of the patient) are given a questionnaire that will indicate if they are suffering from “daytime sleepiness” and gauges the amount of noise they make while sleeping (snoring)

2. After the questionnaire is returned, they are evaluated and it is decided if the child needs further testing

3. A thorough exam by a sleep physician is done utilizing technology that allows doctors to “see” the airway without utilizing x-rays

4. Further testing can include the use of an ambulatory sleep computer (sleep study for the home) that will tell doctors the extent of OSA your child has. The Watch Pat is an electronic computer that is taken home for your child wear overnight in his or her usual sleep environment. It is extremely comfortable to wear and does not affect their usual pattern of sleep. It tells the doctors how much true sleep your child get, how much and how loud he or she snores, and what position he or she snores the most in. It evaluates your child’s sleep stages (including REM sleep) and the oxygen content of his or her blood at different times of their sleep. Finally, it analyzes their personal data and generates a report

5. Further studies might indicate the need for an overnight sleep study (PSG). Treatment will consist of the best methods that can include a dental device, CPAP, or surgical procedure

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