Best Life: Sleep apnea in kids

Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 9:08 AM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- About one in every 50 kids will develop obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes brief periods of stopped breathing during sleep. Here’s what causes this sleep issue in kids.

Sleep is essential for helping kids re-charge, but children with sleep apnea don’t get the rest they need. The disorder can cause pauses in breathing that affect sleep quality and lead to daytime sleepiness, behavior issues, and more.

“If you look at the bottom third of a classroom in performance, over half those kids will have undiagnosed sleep apnea,” said Floyd Livingston, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Nemours Children’s Hospital.

Livingston said many kids with sleep apnea will be misdiagnosed as being hyperactive. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, as many as 25 percent of kids diagnosed with ADHD may actually have sleep apnea.

And while most cases of sleep apnea in adults are caused by obesity, enlarged tonsils and adenoids are usually to blame in children. The condition most often affects kids between ages two and eight.

“That’s when kids are growing the fastest. So they’re increasing in height but their width is not increasing as quickly so their airway resistance goes up during that time,” said Livingston.

Some common symptoms to watch out for include: snoring, gasping for breath, night sweats, bedwetting, sleepwalking, and choking during sleep. The good news is surgery to remove enlarged tonsils and adenoids can help kids find relief.

Other treatments include anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medicines, orthodontic devices, or a CPAP machine. The important thing is to get treated so your child can rest easy.

Doctors diagnose sleep apnea in kids by performing an overnight sleep study in a lab. During this test, a special machine measures specific body functions while the child sleeps. It’s painless and non-invasive.

Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor

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