When you think of sleep apnea, who comes to mind? Most frequently, sleep apnea occurs in adult males over the age of 50 who are overweight. But did you know it can affect anyone at any age? Yes, even children! Unfortunately, there are myriad ways that sleep apnea is dangerous for both adults and children, but it poses some unique threats to children. If your child has childhood sleep apnea, or you believe he or she might have it, keep reading.
What Is Childhood Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes the affected person to stop and restart breathing throughout the night. This can often sound like snoring, and you may even see your child coughing or gasping for air as they stop breathing momentarily. Worse yet, sleep apnea has been known to cause a whole list of dangerous side effects.
Every parent knows that kids of all ages need a good night’s sleep to function during the day. Unfortunately, for patients with childhood sleep apnea, interrupted sleep can lead to a whole lot of daytime issues, including difficulty staying awake, trouble concentrating, impaired cognitive function and development, poor school performance, and even behavioral issues.
Oxygen deprivation occurs when your child stops breathing during sleep, which indicates childhood sleep apnea. This can lead to issues with the brain, cardiovascular system and many other organs.
Much like in adults, sleep apnea in children has been found to cause cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) over time. This can set children up for lifelong heart problems that are typically found in older adults.
Failure To Thrive
You know how no matter how hard you may fight it or how bad your insomnia gets, you always eventually fall asleep? That’s because we need sleep, and nobody needs sleep more than children. Sleep is a vital factor in children’s growth and development. But when childhood sleep apnea is present and your child can’t get an adequate night’s rest, this can alter the release of growth hormones that are responsible for bone development and physical growth. This means that disrupted sleep could interrupt your child’s growth, causing delays or stunted physical development.
Psychological And Behavioral Issues
Whether your child already has behavioral issues or they are caused by sleep deprivation, lack of sleep can definitely make behavioral problems and psychological issues worse. Some examples of this include irritability, hyperactivity and ADHD-like behavior. Much like in adults, it can also increase their risk of depression and anxiety.
Cognitive impairment can strike anyone who is sleep-deprived, including children. This means children who are sleep deprived are more likely to have an accident such as a fall or other injury caused by impaired coordination. In teens, this can increase their risk of car accidents.
Poor Overall Health
Unfortunately, when left untreated, childhood sleep apnea can cause long-term health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and even cardiovascular disease as they age.
While not a health problem per se, bedwetting is still a problem, especially in older children. In addition to the mess it causes, it can also cause your child considerable embarrassment and affect their long-term self-esteem.
Treating Sleep Apnea
The solution to these and other problems caused by childhood sleep apnea is to treat the condition. While there are many options out there for treatment, Dr. Garcia and Dr. Conchi recommend a custom sleep orthotic that fits comfortably into your child’s mouth and props the airway open naturally. Most people find these devices more comfortable than CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines, so patients are more likely to use them. They are also easier to clean and care for than CPAP machines, and don’t require uncomfortable masks and tubing or electricity to operate.
If your child has any of the symptoms of sleep apnea, speak to Dr. Garcia or Dr. Conchi about undergoing a sleep study that can diagnose their sleep apnea and get them on the road to treatment. Once you have a diagnosis, Dr. Garcia can discuss your options for a custom orthotic for your child. For more information, please contact the Miami Designer Smiles office today!