We generally do not associate sleep apnea with children, but pediatric sleep apnea is not as uncommon as one might believe. Taking the report from American Sleep Apnea Association into account, we can see that up to 4% of all children in the US could be suffering from sleep apnea today. Both central and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) currently has the highest probability of affecting children who are at least two-years-old, but no older than eight.
The Age Bracket is Not a Limiting Factor
There have also been instances of sleep apnea affecting children outside this age-bracket, so consider the age group as a reference point, but not a steadfast condition. Rather, moms should lookout for the most common signs of pediatric sleep apnea instead, so that they can act accordingly to manage the condition as best as possible. After all, if someone develops sleep apnea later on in their adult life, it will still have the same effects, as there are hardly any differences between pediatric and adult sleep apnea.
What are the Most Common Signs of Sleep Apnea in Children?
Snoring – This can indicate both obstructive and central sleep apnea (CSA), however, loud snoring is a clear sign that the child is suffering from OSA. The CNS-malfunction which causes children with CSA to lose their ability to breathe while sleeping may also force them to snore, but that would never be as loud or as prominent as it would be in a case of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.
Mouth Breathing, Choking and Coughing in Sleep – They are all indicative of the fact that the nasal and/or oral airway/airways are either malfunctioning, or they are being blocked by something.
Night Terrors – Night terrors followed by frequent bed wetting can be indicative of the fact that the brain is not getting the oxygen it needs. The ensuing panic manifests itself in the subconscious as a night terror.
Unusual Sleeping Positions – The child is unable to breathe properly while sleeping in a usual position, so they sleep in odd positions that might help them to breathe a little better.
Long Pauses in between Breathing – If the snoring and the breathing stops for long seconds at a time, that can be a very dangerous sign of OSA or CSA. The child may wake up often with a loud snore soon after.
How to Manage Your Child’s Sleep Apnea
Aside from learning about safety measures, best practices and possibility of using medication, parents will need to get particularly familiar with the continuous positive airway pressure machine, more commonly known as the CPAP machine. You will also have to keep your CPAP clean at all times, since neglecting that part could lead to sinus, throat and chest infections. Mold, bacteria and dust in the machine can make sleep apnea a lot worse for children and adults alike.
Delayed diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea can lead to a long list of physical, mental, and social developmental issues in children. Even heart attacks, permanent brain damage, and cerebral strokes are not uncommon when the toddler has central sleep apnea. If your child has any of the symptoms discussed, get them to see a physician as soon as possible and determine a course of treatment.