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Health Information For Parents
Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing during sleep. It usually happens because something obstructs, or blocks, the upper airway. This is called obstructive sleep apnea (AP-nee-uh).
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can make the body’s oxygen levels fall and interrupt sleep. This can make kids miss out on healthy, restful sleep. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to learning, behavior, growth, and heart problems.
When we sleep, our muscles relax. This includes the muscles in the back of the throat that help keep the airway open. In obstructive sleep apnea, these muscles can relax too much and collapse the airway, making it hard to breathe.
This is especially true if someone has enlarged tonsils or adenoids (germ-fighting tissues at the back of the nasal cavity), which can block the airway during sleep.
Other things that can make a child likely to have it include:
When breathing stops, oxygen levels in the body drop and carbon dioxide levels rise. This usually triggers the brain to wake us up to breathe. Most of the time, this happens quickly and we go right back to sleep without knowing we woke up.
This pattern can repeat itself all night in obstructive sleep apnea. So people who have it don’t reach a deeper, more restful level of sleep.
Signs of obstructive sleep apnea in kids include:
Because it’s hard for them to get a good night’s sleep, kids might:
As a result, obstructive sleep apnea can hurt school performance. Teachers and others may think a child has ADHD or learning problems.
Talk to your doctor if your child:
Your doctor might refer you to a sleep specialist or recommend a sleep study.
A sleep study (also called a polysomnogram) can help doctors diagnose sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. Sleep studies are painless and risk-free, but kids usually need to spend the night in a hospital or sleep center.
During a sleep study, doctors check:
When obstructive sleep apnea is mild, doctors might check a child’s sleep for a while to see if symptoms improve before deciding on treatment.
When big tonsils cause sleep apnea, doctors will refer families to an ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT). The ENT might recommend:
These surgeries often are effective treatments for obstructive sleep apnea.
For other causes, a doctor may recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. In CPAP therapy, a person wears a mask during sleep. The mask may cover the nose only or the nose and mouth. It’s connected to a machine that pumps air to open the airways.
When excess weight causes obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important to work with a doctor on diet changes, exercise, and other safe weight-loss methods.
A sleep study (or polysomnogram) helps doctors diagnose sleep problems. It is an overnight test that can record a variety of body functions while a child sleeps.
Apnea of prematurity (AOP) is a condition in which premature infants stop breathing for 15 to 20 seconds during sleep. AOP usually goes away on its own as a baby matures.
A tonsillectomy is surgery to remove the tonsils. It’s one of the most common surgeries kids and teens get. Find out more.
Enlarged adenoids are normal some kids, but others need surgery. Often, tonsils and adenoids are removed at the same time.
A neck X-ray can help diagnose many conditions, including stridor, croup, hoarseness due to swelling in or near the airways, and problems with tonsils and adenoids.
Does your teen have trouble falling asleep at night? Is he or she sleepy during the day? Find out if it’s just a normal part of adolescence, or if something else is to blame.
Often, tonsils and adenoids are surgically removed at the same time. So, what are adenoids exactly?
Sometimes tonsils need to be removed, but how is it done? Find out in this article for kids.
Although it can be unnerving to see, sleepwalking is actually very common in kids. Here’s how to keep your young sleepwalker safe.
Everybody’s heard of tonsils, but not everyone knows what tonsils do in the body or why they may need to be removed. Find out here.
A couple of pounds of extra body fat are not a health risk for most people. But when people are severely overweight, it can cause health problems.
Tonsillar hypertrophy, or enlarged tonsils, can happen due to an ongoing (chronic) condition or a temporary effect of an infection.
Getting enough sleep can be a problem for children of any age. Read this article to learn tips on bedtime schedules and routines for your child.
Sleep problems can keep some teens awake at night even when they want to sleep. If that sounds like you, find out what you can do.
Newborn babies donât yet have a sense of day and night. They wake often to eat â no matter what time it is.
Are you a kid who snores? Find out why some people are such noisy sleepers in this article for kids.
Just what are adenoids? And why do kids sometimes have to get their adenoids removed? Get the answers here.
When you get a good night’s sleep, it’s like giving your body a tiny vacation. Find out the scoop on sleep in this article for kids.
Weight loss surgery works. But it’s serious stuff,Â both physically and emotionally. Find out about two weight loss surgery options for teens.
Preventing kids from becoming overweight means making choices in the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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