Our children suffer more than we might when it comes to sleep apnea. But why is that? It’s because children have smaller lungs, which means they have less oxygen in reserve. As a result, children take frequent, shallow breaths rather than slow, deep breaths. This then causes a child to have too much carbon dioxide in the blood.
Additionally, adults might have fragmented sleep where they briefly wake up after breathing stops. But it is different with children. When this occurs in children, they do not wake up in response to the pauses in breathing, but have a higher “arousal threshold” than adults, which makes their sleep patterns normal with sleep apnea.
Let’s look at some of the signs, symptoms and causes of sleep apnea among children.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Throughout the night, a child with sleep apnea might experience some of the following symptoms:
- Loud snoring on a regular basis
- Pauses, gasps, snorts and stoppage of breathing
- Waking or disruptions due to snorts or gasps
- Be restless or sleep in abnormal positions with their head in an unusual position
- Sweat heavily during sleep
Additionally, if a child suffers from sleep apnea they might also experience quite a bit of symptoms throughout the day while they are awake, including:
- Behavioral, school and social problems.
- It Is difficult to wake up.
- Have headaches during the day, especially morning.
- Be irritable, agitated, aggressive and cranky.
- So sleepy during the day they actually fall asleep or daydream.
- Speak with a nasal voice and breathe regularly through the mouth.
What are the causes of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea in children is associated with quite a few specific causes, including the following:
- Gastroenterological reflux disorder.
- Abnormality in the physical structure of the face or jaw.
- Medical and neurological conditions.
However, the most common physical problem associated with sleep apnea in children is large tonsils. Peaking at five to seven years of age, young children often have quite large tonsils in comparison to the throat, which can cause a blockage of the airway resulting in breathing difficulty and sleep apnea.
If you suspect your child may have symptoms of sleep apnea, contact us at AZ Sleep & TMJ Solutions.