Sleep is expected to be a pleasurable and soothing activity for children. Indeed, every parent should raise an eyebrow when children begin to find it difficult to fall asleep, experience daytime sleepiness, snore loudly, can’t sleep without sleeping pills, and have daytime fatigue.
Those are symptoms of sleep apnea. Obstructive or central sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that prevents people of different ages – including children – from falling asleep without stress. Sleep apnea causes children to stop breathing when sleeping. Not only that, it makes them constantly cough, gasp, or choke at intervals. In this article, you can read in detail about how does sleep apnea happen?
Meanwhile, it is not advisable to start exploring the treatment options for sleep apnea until your sleep specialist diagnoses sleep apnea. Otherwise, you may expose your child to life-threatening risk factors that may affect their overall lifestyle.
Tragically, many children in Australia cannot get normal sleep for up to 6 to 8 hours at a stretch in 24 hours. That is because many live with untreated sleep apnea symptoms without even knowing it.
After a long close observation of children in Australia, it is confirmed that about 37% of the children frequently experience the symptoms of central or obstructive sleep apnea in the form of nightmares, loud snoring, mouth opening during sleep, bedwetting, and more.
Amazingly, parents usually ignore the symptoms mentioned above of sleep apnea. Instead, they relate the symptoms to an entirely different health problem. That and other factors are why most children struggle with mild obstructive sleep apnea disorder for a long time without treatment until it worsens.
Continuous positive airway pressure therapy and oral appliances are among the best solutions to sleep apnea issues. You can also get help from a certified sleep laboratory or invite a specialist for home sleep apnea testing when you observe changes in your sleep.
Understanding the Two Main Types of Sleep Apnea
Meanwhile, sleep apnea occurs in two main types: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is an obstruction in the upper airway of a child’s breathing channel, causing the throat muscles to relax and resulting in difficulty in breathing. On the other hand, central sleep apnea happens when the brain refuses to send signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Severe obstructive sleep apnea can affect the children’s lifestyle, causing them to get angry quickly, lose concentration during the conversation, perform woefully at school, and more. Hence, applying the proper treatment at the earlier stage is essential to free the airways and restore the child’s sound sleep.
Even severe central sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea disorder can certainly be eliminated. Yet, it is better to prevent sleep apnea than to look for ways to treat it when the situation has gone to the extreme.
From an expert point of view, it is always better to understand the causes of sleep apnea and be consistent with preventive measures to keep a good healthy life.
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What Are The Causes of Sleep Apnea?
Naturally, anyone can develop mild sleep apnea symptoms at any age. In the case of children, some even become patients with moderate sleep apnea at the infant stage. In addition, research has shown that central sleep apnea can occur genetically. However, several artificial activities come with risk factors that can put children at risk of developing obstructive or central sleep apnea syndrome. Here are some of the less-known factors that can increase the risk of sleep apnea in children
10 Causes of Sleep Apnea in Children
The following factors are mostly linked with obstructive sleep apnea in children. But they can also contribute to the development of central sleep apnea.
1. Excess weight
Being overweight is never a plus for a child’s health in whatever spin. On the contrary, it can be why your child struggles with several health complications, including severe or moderate obstructive sleep apnea. In addition, when fats are deposited around a child’s upper airway, it can instruct the out and inflow of air, thereby causing pauses in breathing.
Also, excess weight against a child’s chest wall can make it harder for muscles to draw when having a deep breath and consequently prevent the child from breathing easier. Severe obstructive sleep apnea can worsen the breathing control of a child’s brain and cause the patient’s blood to contain too much carbon dioxide and a shortage in oxygen levels.
Meanwhile, weight loss might not necessarily mean your child is free from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. As a matter of fact, it may lead to an increased risk of sleep disorders.
2. Neck circumference
Some children are born with thicker necks which can be the reason they have narrower airways. In contrast, airways are expected to be wide and free to aid smooth in and outflow of air through the nose. A child in this condition might have to undergo surgery to sleep well.
3. A narrowed airway
Aside from the thicker neck issues, some children might have inherited narrow throats from their parents, which causes them to experience symptoms of obstructive sleep. Not only that, the tonsils or adenoids of some children can enlarge as they grow older, thereby causing a blockage in the airway, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Children who inherit narrow airways from their parents may struggle with obstructive sleep apnea for a long time.
4. Being male
This fact might not be good news for parents expecting male children, but is it true? Male children are more likely to battle with sleep apnea than females. Based on records, a larger percentage of children with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome are male.
However, female children can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea when they become overweight or grow older above menopause.
5. Getting older
Children with tendencies to have obstructive sleep apnea may not experience the symptoms until they grow older. That fact proves that age is a significant factor in experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. Children with mild sleep central or obstructive sleep apnea might face severe symptoms as they grow older. That’s why older adults are usually diagnosed with difficulty breathing when sleeping.
6. Family history
If you have a family member diagnosed with central sleep apnea, it can be a sign that your child may also have the same struggle. Mind you; it is not a matter of certainty. We are only sure it can increase the risk of children born in that family’s lineage developing central sleep apnea and struggling with sleep disorders.
7. Use of alcohol or sedatives
There can be an instance whereby you want to administer medications that involve alcohol or sedatives to your child; it is normal. However, too much alcohol intake or use of sedatives can result into having obstructive sleep apnea.
The fact is, sedatives can relax the muscles in a child’s throat and cause a blockage in the airway. Alcohol, on the other hand, can make sleep apnea symptoms go from mild to severe.
8. Nasal congestion
If a child finds breathing difficult through the nose or stops breathing at intervals when sleeping, it can be a sign that the child needs to treat sleep apnea. Whether the difficulty in breathing results from anatomical problems or allergies, the child would have to see an experienced sleep specialist to explore the available treatment options to free the air passage.
Children with medical conditions can also experience obstructive or central sleep apnea. For example, if your child is struggling with health complications such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, inadequacy in blood oxygen levels, type 2 diabetes, and more can result in difficulty in breathing while sleeping.
Knowing some of the unnatural causes of sleep apnea can help you prevent the sleeping disorder and keep your smooth sleep. You can visit your healthcare provider if the cause of your child’s sleep apnea is a result of natural occurrences. No matter the reason, there are other treatments for sleep apnea, whether at the mild or severe level.