Snoring and Childhood Sleep Apnea
It’s entirely normal for a child to snore occasionally. Snoring in children is typically a sign of a cold or allergies. Under these circumstances, it’s not anything to be too concerned about. If your child is otherwise healthy, snoring could suggest childhood sleep apnea.
While we often associate this sleep disorder with middle age, sleep apnea can also affect children. Childhood sleep apnea can lead to significant physical and emotional complications.
How to Recognize Sleep Apnea in Children
Sleep apnea is a result of upper airway blockage during sleep. This blockage is typically caused by the relaxation of the tongue into the airway, or by enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Up to three percent of children will have sleep apnea.
A child with sleep apnea may not get enough restorative sleep which can have physical and emotional consequences. If your child’s airways are obstructed, you may notice that they startle or gasp during the night, or have pauses in their breathing patterns. These pauses can last a few seconds, or up to a minute, depriving your child’s body of oxygen. You may notice some of these additional signs:
- Snoring loudly and regularly (at least three nights per week)
- Restless sleep
- Sleeping with their head placed in an unusual position
- Frequent bed wetting
- Heavy sweating during sleep
When your child’s sleep is interrupted by sleep apnea, you may also notice daytime symptoms. Your child may be difficult to wake in the morning or complain of waking with a headache. Some of the other daytime symptoms include:
- unusually sleepiness during the day
- Symptoms of hyperactivity or ADHD
- Behavioral problems
- A noticeably nasal voice
- Regular mouth breathing
If you are concerned about childhood sleep apnea, it is important to discuss your concerns with a qualified professional. Left untreated, childhood sleep apnea can affect your child’s development and growth, or result in poor academic performance. Improving sleep quality has lasting benefits.
Treatment for Childhood Sleep Apnea
Your family dentist or orthodontist can play an active role in the treatment of your child’s sleep apnea. They may also advise you on the signs and symptoms you need to be aware of.
- If your child is under the age of 13, your practitioner may suggest a non-invasive oral expander. This device will gently increase the width of the roof of your child’s mouth and improve airflow. Once the airway is expanded, your child will breathe easier during the night.
- For an older child, your orthodontist may recommend an oral appliance, a custom-made mouth guard that fits over the teeth. An oral appliance will reposition the jaw during sleep and reduce the risk of airway obstruction. In most cases, oral appliances are shown to be as effective as CPAP for treating obstructive sleep apnea.
If you have concerns about sleep apnea, you may want to discuss the issue with your family physician. Your doctor may suggest a sleep study and possibly an oral expander or oral appliance, depending on the age of your child. In Webster Groves MO, contact Big Bend Orthodontics. Sleep apnea can be treated. We can help your child get the rest they need and deserve.