Sleep apnea which occurs in children is known as pediatric sleep apnea. It is the sleep disorder in which a child may experience stopping of breathing during sleep. The duration of stopping of breathing may be for a few seconds or it can be up to some minutes. You should take your child to a sleep apnea clinic if you see the symptoms.
Sleep apnea is not primarily fatal, but it can be quite discomforting to know that you can stop breathing for a brief period of time during your sleep and this can cause anxiety. For children, this is more problematic since they can’t even feel that they are experiencing this, until a parent or a sleeping partner like a sibling lets them know.
Types Of Sleep Apnea In Children
There are generally two types of sleep apnea which are prominent in children. They are:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder in which a child can stop breathing during sleep, the reason being the blockage of collapsing of bronchial tubes and airways which provide a passage for air to go through your mouth while you’re sleeping. In obstructive sleep apnea, you will experience more pronounced snoring and wheezing noises because of the obstruction of airways.
Central Sleep Apnea
The second type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, which is caused due to some sort of malfunction in the part of the brain which controls breathing during sleep. That part of the brain shuts down due to whatever reason, either the nerve endings have malfunctioned or the child has some sort of brain trauma. This will cause the child to stop breathing and there is no snoring or little amount of snoring associated with central sleep apnea.
Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea In Children
Some of the very prominent and common symptoms of sleep apnea in children are as follows:
- Heavy amount of snoring. Your child, who usually never snores, will suddenly become a loud snorer. This is caused due to collapsing and blocking of the airways which is the primary reason for sleep apnea.
- You will also experience coughing. Coughing is associated with blocked airways which cannot let air pass through the lungs to the mouth and vice versa. Any obstruction in this passage will lead to the child experiencing a lot of coughing.
- Sometimes, the child can also wet the bed, if the pressure builds too much and is unable to alleviate the pressure through the nose.
- Pauses in breathing is a huge symptom of sleep apnea. If your child sleeps with you, you will feel as though they are taking pauses in breathing.
- Weird sleeping positions can also lead to obstruction in the airways. If your child sleeps on his/her stomach, then this is an obstructive sleeping position and it will cause the child to stop breathing for a short amount of time.
Causes Of Sleep Apnea In Children
Now that the symptoms have been discussed, let’s see what are the main causes of sleep apnea in children.
- If your child is overweight then there is a huge possibility that they might be suffering from a sleeping disorder like sleep apnea. Obesity puts a lot of external pressure on the air tubes and bronchial airways, which can cause blockage and collapsing if there is an absence of pressure during sleep.
- Family history matters a lot too. If your family has a history of sleeping disorders then it is likely that this will be passed on to your child as well.
- Genetic diseases like Down’s syndrome and other relevant disorders can also cause malfunctions in the brain, which can cause central sleep apnea.
- Being extremely underweight at the time of birth may also cause sleep apnea.
Knowing the symptoms and causes of sleep apnea in children is important since it can be hard to determine this disorder in children. So, if you know the symptoms beforehand, the treatment plan can be carried out timely. However, even if the symptoms are not severe, getting an opinion from a sleep apnea doctor MD is important because you should try to treat the sleep disorder as quickly as possible so it doesn’t become a permanent disorder.