Childhood Sleep Apnea Treatment

If your child frequently snores, tosses and turns at night, suffers from night sweats, or displays other warning signs of troubled sleep, it may be time to seek professional help.

Help Your Little One Excel with Better Sleep

You may think of sleep apnea as being a condition that only affects adults, but each year, more and more children are diagnosed with this sleep breathing disorder. If your child frequently snores, tosses and turns at night, suffers from night sweats, or displays other warning signs of troubled sleep, it may be time to seek professional help.

After you receive a diagnosis, you can visit Dr. Tad Morgan for treatment for childhood sleep apnea in Bullard. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about obstructive sleep apnea in children, including why it develops and how we can help.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing is disrupted during sleep. This disruption causes the body to partially wake, which results in less restful sleep. The most common form of sleep apnea occurs when airway obstruction prevents airflow into the lungs. In some cases, the tongue blocks the airway, causing the person to stop breathing.

The severity of sleep apnea varies widely. Some individuals may have just a few sleep disruptions each night, while others have hundreds.

Sleep Apnea in Children: Frequently Misdiagnosed

Estimates say between 1 and 4 percent of children suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. What’s more, the rates are increasing due to a rise in childhood obesity.

What’s the connection? Carrying extra weight around the neck places pressure on the airway, which results in the partial or complete restriction of the flow of air during sleep. This reduction in airflow causes snoring and an oxygen deficiency, which can lead to serious physical and behavioral side effects, especially for growing children.

Unfortunately, sleep apnea is often misdiagnosed or ignored during childhood. According to the American Sleep Apnea Foundation, some studies suggest that as many as 25 percent of children who have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) exhibit the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.

Furthermore, this condition may be linked to bedwetting, delayed growth, difficulty planning, and other issues that affect behavior and cognitive function.

The Signs of Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea affects more than breathing in children. Here are some common signs of the condition in young patients:

  • Snoring
    Snoring is a primary symptom of OSA. However, not all kids with OSA snore, and not all snoring is related to OSA. At times, nasal congestion as a result of illness or allergic rhinitis can cause snoring.
    Children who snore tend to do so when they’re sleeping on their backs. The reason for this is simple: When lying down flat, the tongue can fall back into the throat, blocking the airway. Snoring is also caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. These tissues block the airway while the patient sleeps.
  • Breathing Interruptions During Sleep
    Does your child stop breathing during sleep? Or does he wake up gasping for breath? These episodes are called hypopneas. They occur when the muscles surrounding the airways relax and allow the soft tissue to collapse.
    Hypopneas are usually associated with obstructive sleep apnea, though not all cases of OSA involve them. However, if your child has frequent hypopneas, then he or she is likely to have the sleep-disordered breathing condition.
  • Sleepiness
    If your child wakes up tired every morning or suffers from daytime sleepiness, he or she could be suffering from sleep deprivation. In fact, lack of sleep has been shown to cause ADHD in children.
  • Nightmares
    Children with sleep apnea often experience nightmares and/or night terrors. This happens because the child’s brain is not getting enough oxygen as a result of the interruptions in breathing that happen when the airway is blocked during sleep.
  • Poor School Performance
    Kids who struggle academically may be experiencing sleep problems. A study published in Pediatrics found an association between childhood sleep apnea and behavior: Students who had trouble concentrating were twice as likely to have sleep apnea.
  • Behavioral Issues
    Kids who have sleep apnea may display behaviors such as hyperactivity, aggression, depression, anxiety, mood swings and poor concentration.

Treatment for Kids’ Sleep Apnea

Seeking a diagnosis for your child’s sleep issues is an important first step for finding the best treatment. A sleep study is performed in a sleep lab and can help a doctor or pediatric sleep specialist identify whether obstructive sleep apnea is at the root of the issue. If it is, that’s actually good news – it means treatment and relief are in sight.

Obstructive sleep apnea treatment for kids may require the removal of the tonsils and adenoids, which are glands located at the top of the mouth. Both can restrict the flow of air and cause sleep apnea in children.

In other cases, a removable oral appliance from a qualified dentist can help by repositioning the lower jaw to prevent the collapse of the throat muscles and keep the airway clear. They shift the jaw forward, putting a small amount of pressure on the throat muscles, allowing air to flow freely from the nasal passages through the upper airway and into the lungs.

No matter the appropriate treatment for kids with sleep apnea, the important thing is seeking professional help as soon as you realize there is an issue. Your child’s sleep is too important for anything else!

Won’t They Outgrow It?

While some children do indeed grow out of childhood obstructive sleep apnea, not all do. As a result, many of those who do not outgrow it live with the effects we mentioned above plus other serious health conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular issues, elevated blood pressure, an increased risk of stroke, mood disorders and more.

Contact Us Today!

Do you suspect your child is struggling to get a good night’s rest due to sleep apnea in Bullard? Dr. Tad Morgan can help him or her find relief to keep growing strong! Contact us to book an appointment and learn more about kids’ sleep apnea today.


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