Children Can Have Sleep Apnea Too
Summary: Children are as affected by a poor night’s sleep and sleep disorders as adults are. Sleep disorders in children can lead to poor school and exam performance, lack of confidence in social situations, and diminished overall development and performance. Understand what is going on with your child’s sleeping habits and discuss with your doctor and a sleep specialist if needed.
Sometimes children, especially small children, are reluctant to go to bed because they are worried that they might miss out on some of the big fun that the people who are awake are having. It takes time to fall asleep, especially if they are not quite tired yet or cranky because they are overtired but not able to fall asleep. For older children, it can be difficult for them, and for their parents, to adjust to a new sleep schedule after the holidays. And then, it can be hard to wake them up! There are other factors too, like changes in light or time zones that affect children’s sleep, but what about sleep disorders? Do children snore, and can they have sleep apnea?
Yes, they can, unfortunately. According to Dr. Adam Moscovitch of the Sleep & Fatigue Institute in Calgary, two-thirds of school aged children have some kind of a sleep problem, and one-third of highschool students fall asleep in class at least once a week. He says that insufficient sleep is the cause of not only daytime fatigue, but also inability to remember facts, poor concentration, behavioural problems and lower social skills.
It is important to recognize sleep disorders in children and understand the issues that may be affecting the depth and quality of their sleep. The World Sleep Federation believes that it is not just the number of hours of sleep that is relevant, but continuity and depth as well. In children, it is also essential that they are aware of healthy sleep habits as early as possible so that they can keep them throughout their life.
There are other things to do to help your child get a good night’s sleep, and these good habits are useful for the whole family to adopt. For instance, have a regular bed time, and don’t modify the schedule too much during holidays. Create a restful time in the home in the evenings, and watch for hidden caffeine and sugars in your child’s food that may interfere with sleep.
However, children are also affected by health issues that affect sleep like snoring, and sleep apnea. There are some medical conditions that could increase the risk of sleep apnea in children such as Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, other craniofacial abnormalities, and syndromes. Like adults, obesity is also a cause of sleep apnea in children, however, most children with sleep apnea are not overweight.
Your child will be healthier, perform better in school and become more adjusted and confident with a good night’s sleep. If you think your child is having sleep problems beyond what can be attributed to normal lifestyle, talk with your child and find out what some of the causes of sleeplessness may be, but also talk with your doctor and a sleep specialist.
The most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea in children is tonsillitis and removing the tonsils may solve the problem. But if not, more surgery may be needed or the use of continuous positive airway pressure. A sleep specialist can recommend the best CPAP equipment for your child.