Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing interruptions while you sleep. It can occur in people of all ages, including toddlers and babies. These breathing disruptions can impact your sleep quality and cause other issues when you’re awake. For children, sleep apnea can result in behavioural issues, making it difficult for them to concentrate in school.
Snoring is just a description of the harsh noise brought on by vibration of the soft tissue of the throat. Snoring can be a benign event but habitual snoring can be an indication of the presence of sleep apnea.
Types of Sleep Apnea in Children
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when your child’s airways are blocked repeatedly, either completely or partially. In addition, the diaphragm and chest muscles are forced to work harder than usual to open up the airways for your child to breathe. Some causes include
The soft tissues in the back of your child’s throat collapsing
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids, which are glands located at the back of the throat
Childhood obesity, which obstructs the airway
Other risk factors such as a small jaw, an overbite, the use of sedatives or opioids, or weakness in the tongue and throat muscles
Nasal allergies causing the nose to become obstructed
Obstructive sleep apnea may lead to a lower flow of oxygen to your child’s vital organs, abnormal heart rhythms, and breathing problems accompanied by loud gasps or jerking of the body.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is caused by problems with your child’s central nervous system, in which the brain fails to tell the muscles to breathe. While a few episodes of central sleep apnea are considered normal, it can also be caused by rare genetic disorders like congenital central hypoventilation syndrome or other health conditions that interfere with parts of the central nervous system that control breathing.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children
Although snoring is one of the most obvious signs of sleep apnea, it does not always mean that your child suffers from this condition. Sleep apnea also doesn’t always lead to snoring. This is why it is important to observe your child’s daily behaviour for any signs and symptoms, as well as bring your child to an ENT doctor to get checked.
Here are some signs and symptoms of sleep apnea
Mouth breathing during sleep
Coughing or choking
Difficulty staying focused
Hyperactivity, rebellious behaviour, impulsiveness
Difficulty controlling emotions.
Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous?
Sleep apnea may not always be dangerous for your child. However, in serious cases, obstructive sleep apnea can cause life-threatening conditions if left untreated. It interrupts sleep and can cause the body’s oxygen levels to fall. Sleep apnea can disrupt learning and cause poor concentration in the short term, and in the long run, it can lead to growth issues and problems with neurocognition.
If you notice signs and symptoms of sleep apnea in your child, it is recommended that you bring your child to an ENT doctor to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Looking for an ENT clinic in Singapore? The team at Dr Jenica Yong’s provide comprehensive care through the use of evidence-based medicine to treat any ENT conditions in adults and children. Schedule your medical appointment with us today.