Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children: How Serious is it?

As sleep disorders go, the presence of obstructive sleep apnea is usually obvious to a suffering bed-partner, as it results in loud snoring sounds that range from rhythmic to sudden outbursts. In either case, the snorer’s sleep quality is compromised, resulting in daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, crankiness, and other symptoms typically associated with poor sleep. In adults, sleep apnea is usually addressed after a bed partner complains of the sufferer’s snoring. But in children, apnea is less likely to be addressed for three reasons: the child may have his or her own room, which makes the snoring less troublesome; the perception that children are generally moody, which can overlook some of the classic symptoms of poor sleep; and the belief that snoring is a natural part of sleep. Children with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Have a Real Condition

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) estimates that between 3 percent and 12 percent of children snore, while sleep apnea affects between 1 percent and ten percent of children. The range in percentage can be attributed in part to parents who don’t seek help for children who have apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can cause a host of problems for the child. These can cause serious health issues, behavioral conditions, and poor academic performance. Many children with sleep apnea show symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavior problems, and bed-wetting. Children rarely outgrow obstructive sleep apnea.

An overnight sleep test, or Polysomnography, is required to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea in children. Many accredited sleep laboratories have specially trained medical staff and technologists that can help minimize anxieties that may accompany such a new experience for the children and their parents.

Except in cases of obesity, permanent weight loss is often an unreliable option in a growing child. As a result, permanent solutions for obstructive sleep apnea children often involve medical procedures, such as adenotonsillectomy or other procedures to improve airway function.