Sleep apnea in children is oftentimes an ignored condition unless the symptoms are so severe to cause worry for parents or guardians. There are two main types of pediatric sleep apnea namely: obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is more prevalent among toddlers and young kids of preschool age. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is usually observed in newly born babies and those below nine months old. Most babies outgrow the sleeping disorder as they mature and as their body systems develop.
Does your child have sleep apnea?
Central sleep apnea in children is characterized by irregular breathing spells. Although irregular breathing normally happens during sleep, it is entirely another matter when the baby stops breathing and turns blue or gray because of the low level of oxygen in the blood. When breathing stops for about eight seconds, parents need to have their babies assessed by a pediatrician immediately.
The same symptoms are present in children with obstructive sleep apnea. The irregular breathing, punctuated with non-breathing periods, is usually accompanied by loud snoring. While snoring is common among people, it is also an indication of sleep apnea caused by the obstructed airway due to the collapsed muscle around the throat and neck. It can also be a result of inflamed tonsils, infected upper respiratory tract, and onset of allergic reactions.
The Common Causes of Pediatric Sleep Apnea
Many possible causes can trigger sleep apnea in children. It is easier to understand why it occurs in premature babies and infants. Their underdeveloped respiratory system makes it difficult for the babies to breathe normally and get enough oxygen into their bodies. In the case of older babies and very young children, the causes are more complex. The sleep disorder may be brought about by physical deformities such as cleft palate and facial defects. Sleep apnea may also be caused by certain illnesses like Down’s syndrome, allergies and obesity.
Effects of Childhood Sleep Apnea
Parents may be troubled by the more obvious symptoms of sleep apnea in the kids. The irregular breathing and non-breathing interludes are enough cause to make them worry. However, there are more to these that meet the eyes. Foremost is sleep deprivation caused by the frequent sleep disturbance during bouts with apnea. The lack or absence of quality and complete sleeping hours can lead to health and behavioral problems.
• Abnormal Growth – sleep deprivation retards the normal growth and development of a child. It is during sleep that hormones are released. In the absence of sleep, the hormone action is not completed.
• Accompanying Sleep Disorders – Children who are deprived of a good sleep usually display other symptoms such as nightmares, sleep talking, and fear of sleeping.
• Behavioral Problems – Just like adults, the lack of sleep can lead to irritability, mood swings and tantrums. In most cases, sleep apnea in children result to hyperactivity, daytime fatigue and sleepiness, poor memory, aggressive actions, depression and more.
• Heart Problems – The lack or absence of air during sleep apnea makes the heart pumps harder to get more oxygen. The heart gets overworked and becomes weaker leading to other complicated health problems such as heart arrhythmia and hypertension that may eventually cause unexpected death.
Seeking Treatment for Sleep Apnea in Your Child
There are various ways to treat sleep apnea. However, there is the need first to bring the child to the family pediatrician to examine and evaluate your child. Initially, the doctor may look at the symptoms as related to the ears, nose, and throat. In most instances, there is the need for the child to undergo surgery for the removal of enlarged tonsils, which are blocking the airway and making it difficult for the child to breathe during sleep.
There are also non-invasive treatments appropriate for babies and children with sleep apnea. The doctor may also prescribed antihistamines if the condition is triggered by allergic reactions. For more severe cases, there are machines or gadgets to be used to continuously supply oxygen to your child during sleep.
Parents cannot sleep well when they see that their child is not getting enough sleep due to something that is eating away his health. Do not just watch your kid as he tossed and turned in his sleep because that may be an indication that he is suffering from sleep apnea in children. Early diagnosis is always better than late antidote.