"Caleb was two when we first noticed his loud snoring," said Scott, Caleb's father. "We were alarmed but didn't really start to worry until we began hearing him gasp for air between the snores. That made my wife and me very uneasy.
Nine year old Matthew was significantly overweight. "We tried to exercise with him everyday, but just walking to the park made him so tired that he could hardly stand let alone play once he got there," said Claire, Matthew's mother. "He struggled just putting on his shoes on in the morning." Matthew told his doctor that he felt like he could never get enough sleep. "He snores louder than my grandfather," Claire added.
Both Caleb and Matthew were given sleep studies, and they were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A surgeon removed Caleb's tonsils, and Matthew was given a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device with a child-sized mask. After his surgery, Caleb stopped snoring. Now the only noise from his room is the occasional laughter in his sleep. These days, Matthew leaps out of bed in the morning and has lost 25 pounds. "He's the child I always knew he could be," said Claire.
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of sleep apnea, talk to your pediatrician.
Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea may contribute to daytime fatigue and behavioral problems at school. According to a recent study in CHEST, the official journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, children who snored loudly were twice as likely to have learning problems. Following a night of poor sleep, children are more likely to be hyperactive and have difficulty paying attention. These are also signs of attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Apnea may also be associated with delayed growth and cardiovascular problems.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Children
During the night, a child with sleep apnea may:
- Snore loudly and on a regular basis
- Have pauses, gasps, and snorts and actually stop breathing. The snorts or gasps may waken them and disrupt their sleep.
- Be restless or sleep in abnormal positions with their head in unusual positions
- Sweat heavily during sleep
During the day, a child with sleep apnea may:
- Have behavioral, school and social problems
- Be difficult to wake up
- Have headaches during the day, but especially in the morning
- Be irritable, agitated, aggressive, and cranky
- Be so sleepy during the day that they actually fall asleep or daydream
- Speak with a nasal voice and breathe regularly through the mouth