Sleep Apnea in Children

Our Youngest Patients Deserve Restful Sleep

While obstructive sleep apnea is most common in adults, it can also affect children. If your child is snoring at night, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. But as a primary caregiver, you’ll probably notice if their sleep is interrupted at night. Dr. Juliet Bulnes-Newton can help alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea in children,  ensuring your child’s issues are corrected before adulthood. 

Causes of Sleep Apnea in Children 

Sleep apnea in children, also known as pediatric sleep apnea, is more common than you might think—it affects between one and ten percent of children. The majority of children with the sleep disorder have mild symptoms, and occasionally the condition resolves itself on its own as they grow. Still, getting a proper diagnosis is very important.

Much like adults, children face risk factors for developing sleep apnea like excess weight and a family history of the disorder. Another risk factor for kids is simply the way their little mouths and skeletons are developing. As children’s jaws and mouths develop, factors like jaw size, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and tooth position can all increase their likelihood of developing a sleep disorder like sleep apnea. 

Certain medical conditions like cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome can also increase a child’s risk of pediatric sleep apnea. But even without any of these risk factors, your child can still have a sleep disorder.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children

Just like sleep apnea is difficult to diagnose in adults, identifying sleep apnea in children is particularly challenging. Kids sometimes have a hard time expressing what is wrong, and their sleep deprivation can come across as behavioral issues. In many cases, these children are misdiagnosed with conditions like ADHD.

Knowing the signs to look for can help ensure your child gets the care they need as soon as possible. Symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea include:

  • Deep snoring with pauses and snorts
  • Heavy breathing when sleeping
  • Breathing through the mouth during sleep
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep talking
  • Sleepwalking 
  • Excessive bedwetting
  • Restless sleep 
  • Sleeping in unusual positions, often with the neck extended
  • Daytime sleepiness and difficulty focusing in school or behavioral problems
  • Irritable mood during the day

In school-aged children with sleep apnea, daytime fatigue can present as disruptive behavior in school, or trouble focusing. If your child’s teacher brings up these behaviors, it is certainly worthwhile to bring your child in for a screening.

Pediatric Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

Please don’t assume your child will outgrow pediatric sleep apnea. If treatment is necessary, it is best to get a proper diagnosis early. While some children do well with a CPAP machine, our team can offer CPAP alternatives that may prove more comfortable for your child at our Tampa office. We might recommend oral appliances, natural remedies, or even dental work like early intervention braces to realign the teeth and jaw. 

At Sleep Better Tampa, our goal is always to provide our youngest patients with the best possible treatment for pediatric sleep apnea. 

Pediatric Sleep Apnea Prevention

Sleep apnea in children cannot always be prevented, as it is sometimes caused by family history or medical conditions that aren’t avoidable. However, there are a few things that can help:

  • Avoiding allergens. Things like pollen and mold can cause allergic rhinitis, an allergic reaction of the nasal passages. This leads to heavy congestion and airway restriction. 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity increases the odds of developing sleep apnea at any age. If you have any concerns, please talk to your child’s pediatrician before you put your child on any kind of diet. 
  • Positional therapy. If you notice your child only struggles when they sleep in one position, like on their back, you can try training them to sleep in a better position. However, little is known about the effectiveness of positional therapy. 

Sleep Apnea in Children FAQ 

Will my child’s sleep apnea go away on its own?

There is a possibility that your child’s sleep apnea will resolve itself. However, we highly recommend getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. Untreated sleep apnea in children can lead to growth delays, cognitive delays, heart problems, and a failure to thrive socially.

How will I know if my child has sleep apnea?

 It’s important to be mindful of any symptoms your child is exhibiting, such as excess snoring, mouth breathing, daytime fatigue and irritability, and behavioral issues. But without a proper diagnosis, it will be impossible to tell. A trusted Tampa sleep expert like Dr. Juliet Bulnes-Newton can help.

What should I do if I think my child has pediatric sleep apnea?

If you suspect your child might have sleep apnea, call us right away at (813) 607-5337 and schedule a consultation with our team. We’d be happy to help you get the answers you need and determine the right treatment plan.

Sleep Apnea Solutions in Tampa 

Are you ready to get your child on a path to better health? Give our Tampa office a call at (813) 607-5337 or contact us here, and one of our friendly team members will get back to you as soon as we can. We look forward to meeting you!