Child sleeping in bed with sleep apnea treatment.

From gasping to snoring to pauses in breathing at night, there are many signs that your child has sleep apnea. There are also more subtle clues that you may miss. Perhaps you notice they’re extremely fatigued during the day, or maybe their grades are dropping in school, or perhaps they’re acting out in new ways. These can be not-so-obvious clues that your child is not getting the sleep he or she needs to thrive.

It’s important to have your child evaluated by a dentist who specializes in sleep apnea and related disorders to get at the root of the problem. Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea falls under the umbrella of sleep disorder in which breathing is either partially or completely blocked over and over as children slumber. The condition comes about through the narrowing or blockage of the upper airway.

Differences Between Adult and Pediatric Sleep Apnea

While the two have similarities, there are differences that exist between pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and adult sleep apnea, particularly in how they manifest. Adults usually display daytime sleepiness, while children are more likely to display behavioral problems. This is why so often kids are misdiagnosed as having ADHD, when in many cases it turns out they actually have sleep apnea and are displaying troublesome behaviors because they simply lack quality sleep.

The under-lying cause of sleep apnea in adults is usually obesity, while in children the most common condition is an enlargement of the adenoids and tonsils. In any case, early diagnosis and treatment are vital in preventing complications that may impact your child’s growth, cognitive development and behavior.

Symptoms to Keep an Eye On

As a parent, you are likely mindful of your child’s sleep patterns. You may hear them tossing and turning during the night, or have a difficult time waking them up in the morning, only to be met with a sleepy, irritable child for most of the day. The best thing you can do as a parent is be observant of these signs and symptoms of childhood sleep apnea, and get them the help they need going forward.

At Night

  • Snoring
  • Pausing when breathing
  • Restless sleep
  • Coughing, snorting or choking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Bed wetting
  • Sleep terrors
  • Teeth grinding, AKA bruxism

Keep in mind, infants and young children who have OSA do not necessarily snore. They may just have disturbed sleep. Don’t assume that because they don’t snore at night, that they don’t have sleep apnea.

During the Day

During the daytime hours, children with sleep apnea may:

  • Perform poorly in school
  • Have trouble paying attention
  • Develop learning problems
  • Display behavioral problems
  • Gain weight or lose weight
  • Be hyperactive

Make an appointment with your child’s doctor if your child consistently wakes up in the morning feeling tired or is starting to display behavioral problems. A dentist who specializes in sleep disorders should also be able to pinpoint this problem and suggest solutions.

Just like with manifesting symptoms, adult and pediatric treatments differ as well. Most adults are prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which provides a constant stream of air through a face mask in order to prevent the back of the throat from collapsing and obstructing airflow. However, in children, this solution is often too invasive, bulky, imposing and even hard to operate for kids.

Custom-made mouthpieces are usually the best option for children, worn at night to pull the jaw forward and keep the airway open. It works like a simple retainer and is more tolerable for children.

Contact Sleep Apnea Center of Michigan

To learn more about how to recognize sleep apnea in your child and how to get the best treatment for them, contact us today at (586) 203-2150.