If your child snores, sleeps with his or her mouth open, has a poor attention span and/or behavioral issues, obstructive sleep apnea may be the problem.
Most children don’t snore, so if your child does, consider asking your doctor whether there might be a problem. At least 2 to 3% of children are believed to have sleep apnea, with the disorder believed to be as high as 10 to 20% in children who habitually snore. Sleep apnea is a condition in which the muscles at the back of the throat intermittently relax too much, partially or completely blocking the airway. This means the child’s breathing may be starting and stopping during sleep. These breathing interruptions, which typically last 10 to 20 seconds, may happen anywhere from five to more than 30 times in one hour.
Every time your child stops breathing, even briefly, the brain awakens slightly. Consequently, their quality of sleep is extremely poor, which can make your child tired and cranky during the day. This can lead to other health problems, including poor growth.
Fortunately, pediatric obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is treatable. If the problem is the result of enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a simple surgery to remove either or both provides a cure. Other times, your child may need to wear a specialized medical device while they sleep.