Can Children Have Sleep Apnea?

July 2, 2023
Snoring little girl on pink bed sheets

Sleep apnea is often regarded as an adult disorder, especially since it becomes more common as people enter their senior years. Still, you might wonder if all age groups are vulnerable to this disorder. Can children have sleep apnea? Yes! This blog post explains some basic information about how and why this condition can afflict young ones.

How Common Is Sleep Apnea in Children?

There are two types of sleep apnea. It is estimated that the more common variety, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) afflicts 1 – 5% of children. It usually starts when a child is between 2 and 8 years old.

Of course, estimates about the prevalence of OSA in children may be inaccurate. It may be frequently misdiagnosed or disregarded as harmless snoring.

What Causes Sleep Apnea in Children?

In most cases, OSA in children is caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids. These structures can interfere with the free flow of air, causing the pauses in breathing that are characteristic of OSA.

Other possible causes include:

  • Obesity. Obesity in children is quite common in the U.S. Unfortunately, excess fatty tissue around the neck is a major risk factor for OSA.
  • Dental problems. Untreated tongue tie, crooked teeth, and other dental issues could interfere with proper breathing.
  • Other issues. A deviated septum, chronic nasal congestion, and other problems can contribute to the development of OSA.

Does Your Child Need Sleep Apnea Treatment?

How can you tell if your child has sleep apnea? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Your child snores loudly and frequently.
  • You have noticed that your child sometimes stops breathing while asleep.
  • Your child is always tired.
  • Your child wets their bed.

OSA can also affect your child’s behavior. They may have poor performance in school or exhibit symptoms of ADHD.

Finding Relief from Childhood OSA

If you suspect that OSA is affecting your child’s quality of life, talk to your doctor or a sleep dentist about arranging a sleep test. After the test provides an official diagnosis of your child’s condition, you can consider treatment options.

An oral appliance from a dentist can offer a convenient and comfortable way to keep your child’s airway open during sleep so they can get the high-quality rest they need to grow and thrive. You may also need to encourage some lifestyle changes. For example, you can motivate your child to make healthy food choices and help them get more physical activity (especially if they are carrying extra weight). Orthodontic treatment might help with issues in the mouth that are contributing to the OSA.

Childhood sleep apnea is very real, and it is very serious. If you believe your child has it, you should help them receive proper care ASAP.

Meet the Practice

Dr. Kenneth Mogell is an experienced, board-certified sleep dentist who can help patients of virtually any age to find relief from OSA via oral appliance therapy. If you believe your little one is not getting the high-quality sleep they need, Dr. Mogell and our team are ready to consult with you. Use our website to reach out to any of our locations, or call our Vero Beach office at 772-882-6800.