My Child Is Snoring: Is It Pediatric Sleep Apnea?

As parents, we love watching our children sleep. We also tend to catch on to their strange habits, especially if something is going on with their sleep. If you are noticing some strange behavior in your child’s sleep, such as pauses in breathing or snoring, this article is important for you. Sometimes, we tend to overanalyze every little thing with our children—however, snoring is one thing you should not ignore in your child. If your child is snoring, keep reading to learn more about pediatric sleep apnea, symptoms, treatment options, and what could happen if it is left untreated.

Why is My Child Snoring?

There could be many reasons why your child is snoring. According to Cedars Sinai, snoring in children usually happens because the muscles in the head and neck help keep the upper airway open. When a child falls asleep, these muscles tend to relax. That allows tissues to fold closer together. If the airway is partially closed while awake, falling asleep may cause the passage to close completely.

In children, the most common cause of such a blockage is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. These glands are located at the back and to the sides of the throat. They may grow too large. Or an infection may cause them to swell. They may then briefly block the airway during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea may also be caused by:

  • Being overweight
  • A tumor or growth in the airway
  • Certain syndromes or birth defects, such as Down syndrome and Pierre-Robin syndrome

Children may also snore because of dental issues, allergies, or when they are sick and have a stuffy nose. Sometimes, this can cause symptoms of sleep apnea to occur.

What is Pediatric Sleep Apnea?

Pediatric sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your child’s breathing is partially or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep. The condition is due to narrowing or blockage of the upper airway during sleep.

There are differences between pediatric obstructive sleep apnea and adult sleep apnea. While adults usually have daytime sleepiness, children are more likely to have behavioral problems. The underlying cause in adults is often obesity, while in children the most common underlying condition is an enlargement of the adenoids and tonsils. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications that can affect children’s growth, cognitive development, and behavior.

Symptoms of Pediatric Sleep Apnea

There are many symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea to pay attention to because not all children snore. Many have disturbed sleep and other symptoms that occur during the day. This makes it important to understand all of the symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea and make note of how many your child is suffering from.

The most common symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Snorting
  • Coughing
  • Choking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Bedwetting
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Frequent complaints about headaches
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Extreme tiredness during the day
  • The need for a nap, past the age of napping
  • A nasal voice
  • Sleep terrors
  • Sleepwalking
  • Poor performance in school
  • Difficulty focusing or paying attention in school or during homework
  • Exhibiting symptoms of a learning disability
  • Symptoms of certain behavioral disorders, such as ADHD
  • Poor weight gain
  • Hyperactivity

What Should I Do?

The first thing you should do is speak to your pediatrician. Your child’s doctor will ask about symptoms and may perform a physical exam. They may also refer your child to a sleep study, which can help pinpoint the source of the sleep apnea.

According to Cedars Sinai, a sleep study is the best way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. However, the test may be hard to do with younger children or those who don’t want to cooperate. For the study, your child may need to sleep in a special lab. Sometimes sleep apnea testing may be done with a device used in your own home. While sleeping, he or she will be connected to monitors that check:

  • Brain activity
  • Electrical activity of the heart
  • Oxygen and often carbon dioxide content in the blood
  • Movement of the chest and abdominal wall
  • Muscle activity
  • Amount of air flowing through the nose and mouth

Once your child has been formally diagnosed with pediatric sleep apnea, you can begin to look into treatment options.

Treatment Options for Pediatric Sleep Apnea

Some of the treatment options available for pediatric sleep apnea include:

  • Tonsil removal. Surgery to remove enlarged tonsils and adenoids, if they are the cause of sleep apnea, will give your child better sleep and a better quality of life. Physically removing this blockage is, sometimes, the only course of treatment for this specific cause of sleep apnea.
  • Weight loss. Losing weight can help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea if your child is overweight. Extra fat around the neck can further close in the airways, making it more difficult to breathe while sleeping.
  • Allergy management. Talk to your doctor about giving your child a nasal decongestant or getting them on an allergy management regime. The less your child is congested, the more their sleep apnea symptoms will improve (if this is the root cause of your child’s sleep apnea).
  • CPAP Device. This is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. It involves the use of a mask that delivers a steady stream of air to keep your child’s airways open. It does not treat the root cause of sleep apnea and it can be very uncomfortable or difficult for your child to get used to wearing it.
  • Noninvasive treatment. At our clinic, Dr. Gorman will create a personalized treatment plan with the goal of improving your child’s nighttime breathing. This often involves the use of a custom-fitted dental appliance the patient will wear while sleeping. If the patient’s sleep apnea is caused by the tongue relaxing in the throat, a tongue-retaining device may be the ideal treatment for maintaining an open airway. Should an abnormal jaw position by causing breathing difficulties, Dr. Gorman may recommend a special device to correct this alignment, such as a mouthpiece or a device strapped around the head. Oral devices used to address sleep apnea are removable and typically resemble athletic mouth guards.

What Could Happen If It Is Left Untreated?

Sleep apnea that goes untreated can lead to a wide range of issues. People living with the condition who do not receive prompt treatment are at a higher risk of experiencing the following:

  • Failure to Grow
  • Loud Snoring
  • Snorting or Gasping for Air
  • Frequent Nighttime Urination
  • Morning Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Memory Loss
  • Lack of Energy
  • Drowsy Driving
  • Excessive Stress
  • Cardiovascular Strain
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Increased Risk for Accidents
  • Weight Gain
  • Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke

Treatment for Pediatric Sleep Apnea with Gorman Health and Wellness

Dr. Gorman is a part of the breathing wellness movement, which aims to increase awareness and improve treatment for sleep-related airway conditions like sleep apnea. He has partnered with organizations focused on collaborating with dentists to apply the sciences of Craniofacial Epigenetics (the study of cranial modifications caused by gene expression as opposed to genetic code alteration) and Pneumopedics® (the practical application of oral appliance therapy and non-surgical airway remodeling) in the management of sleep apnea.

Together, the application of these sciences allows for underlying causes of airway obstruction to be treated in 98% of cases, resulting in a high success rate among sleep apnea patients. For every sleep apnea case at our practice, Dr. Gorman will gather patient data and determine the patient’s specific needs based on home sleep test results, dental impressions, CT scans, and images. Our state-of-the-art technology, paired with Dr. Gorman’s experience with sleep disorders, allows him to find the most effective treatment plan for each individual’s particular case, yielding improved daytime and nighttime breathing for the patient.

“I have been helping people suffering from Sleep Apnea with a non-invasive, clinically approved treatment method. This method has allowed my patients to sleep with far fewer events per hour allowing them to get rid of their CPAP and BiPAP machines. Imagine not having to use one of those machines, getting back a much greater quality of life along with the benefits of being able to breathe better.” – Dr. Gorman.

For more information on Dr. Gorman and improving your child’s sleep and quality of life, contact us today.

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