Pediatric Sleep Apnea – What Every Parent Needs to Know

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Sleep Disordered Breathing has become an epidemic among not only adults but children too. The surprising fact is that parents can help prevent the devastating health consequences of this sleep disorder, known as the new silent killer. First, you must be aware of the symptoms and know when to take action.

Sleep apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that occurs when the airway becomes restricted or blocked from receiving proper airflow while sleeping. In other words, the body is being starved of oxygen, and it is unable to rest and rejuvenate, a necessary part of a child’s growth and development.  Upper Airway Resistance is similar: the airway begins to close off and disturbs the sleep, but the breathing does not actually stop.

If you are concerned whether your child has sleep apnea or upper airway resistance, pay attention to these symptoms.

Snoring is certainly a key indicator of a sleep breathing disorder, although many children with sleep breathing disorders do not snore. Even one instance of pediatric snoring should be a concern to the parent or guardian. Snoring occurs because of an airway blockage and can be due to soft tissue (adenoids or tonsils) that is enlarged.

Mouth breathing is another telltale sign that your child is not receiving the proper amounts of oxygen that their body needs to thrive. Mouth breathing dries out the mouth, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to cause tooth decay. It is also likely that your child has sleep apnea if he or she is a chronic mouth breather.

Behavioral issues are another common symptom of sleep apnea in children. Unlike adults who experience a great deal of fatigue when not resting well, children react the opposite, by becoming hyperactive. Children are often treated for behavioral problems such as ADD/ADHD when in fact the cause of their behavior could be inadequate sleep because of sleep apnea.

Sleep disorders are commonly overlooked among primary care physicians. Instead, they may treat a child’s behavioral issue with medication. Although these medications may curb hyperactivity symptoms in a child, the cause of the problem still exists – sleep apnea. Why continue medicating your child with ADD/ADHD medication when what they really need is air?

Poor performance in school or sports is often a symptom of a child with sleep apnea. If you notice that your child loses focus easily, suffers from memory loss or has poor performance in school or sports, discuss this with your child’s sleep apnea dentist.

The perils of untreated sleep apnea

Untreated sleep breathing disorders can hinder a child’s development, and has far reaching results throughout life. The lack of oxygen circulating through the body puts a strain on the heart, leading to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in adulthood. Sleep apnea has become labeled as the “silent killer” because of its link to comorbidities (the presence of two chronic illnesses), and even death. Your child’s IQ, health or even life could be on the line if he or she is living with untreated sleep apnea or upper airway resistance.

If your child exhibits any of the symptoms mentioned above that are associated with sleep breathing disorders, consider an airway evaluation by Brian Hockel, DDS. To schedule a consultation for your child, call our office today at 925-478-7776.

Dr. Brian Hockel and Dr. Rebecca Jardine are proud to serve patients from Walnut Creek, Clayton, Concord, and Lafayette, California, as well as from the greater San Francisco East Bay area and beyond.