How to know if your child has sleep apnea

Children are generally more active and sleep better and more deeply than adults. But as we grow old and our circadian rhythm shifts, there is naturally a decline in the quality of the sleep. However, not all children sleep as peacefully as we expect them to. Children suffering from sleep apnea tend to have a restless sleep, snore a lot and have night terrors. The lack of sleep makes these kids dull and lead to attention problems at school affecting their learning and development process.

More children than before are likely to suffer from sleep apnea due to sedentary lifestyle, obesity prevalence and improper dietary habits.

“Adeno-tonsillar enlargement and obesity are the commonest cause of OSA during the childhood period. OSA is also common in preterm babies or children having small jaw or neuromuscular disorders,” says Dr. Vinay Kumar Rai (MBBD, MD(Pediatrics), DNB(Neonatology) Pediatrician/NeonatologistManipal Hospital, Dwarka, New Delhi.

ALSO READ: Research says obstructive sleep apnea common in kids impacts heart health

But what exactly is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder caused by the repetitive collapse of the upper airway during sleep which leads to complete or partial obstruction of upper respiratory tract.

“OSA (Obstructive sleep apnea) occurs when the muscles supporting the soft tissues in throat relax during sleep which causes airway to partially or even completely close, cutting off the child breathing transiently,” says Dr Rai.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea

* Snoring

* Laboured or obstructed breathing during the child’s sleep

* Sleepiness in the day times

* Hyperactivity

* Behavioural or learning problems

If you notice that your child is not getting adequate sleep during night and finding it difficult to concentrate on studies or having respiratory difficulty during sleep, you must contact your healthcare expert immediately.

Research says obstructive sleep apnea common in kids impacts heart health(Unsplash)

“Presence of typical signs of sleep disturbance, respiratory difficulty or apnea during sleep, concerns about school performance, behaviour changes, inability to concentrate or focus, and sleepiness in the day time suggests OSA. Sleep study, or polysomnography (PSG), is the confirmatory test for OSA in children,” says Dr Rai.

OSA should not be taken lightly as not getting treatment for it can lead to complications like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, ADHD, depression or developmental delay in your child.

“Delay in diagnosis and inadequate OSA treatment may leads to Hypertension in children. Other consequences of untreated OSA are Pulmonary hypertension, Obesity, diabetes, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Major depressive disorder or Developmental delay,” says the expert.

Treatment for sleep apnea

It is possible to treat sleep apnea and treatments and drugs for it are available depending upon the root cause of the disease.

“Lifestyle modification and exercise is going to help if the cause of OSA is obesity. Based on the cause of OSA, Adenotonsillectomy, drugs like Montelukast and BiPAP/CPAP are other available treatments options for OSA management in children. Only few children require surgical intervention,” says the doctor.

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Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh Born on 15 Jun 2001 an Indian author and activist from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. Live in New Delhi