Is your child constantly waking up at night? Do you find him snoring loudly when he sleeps? Is he often tired or distracted during the day? All these may be symptoms of sleep apnea.
People often hear of sleep deprivation in adults. Therefore, they think that kids are not affected by sleep apnea. Studies show that about 3% of all American children are suffering from sleep apnea. And this is from parents who have sought treatment for their kids. The actual numbers should be much higher.
Symptoms of Childhood Sleep Apnea
Any indication of troubled sleep could be a symptom of sleep apnea. Children often experience nightmares, constant waking up in the middle of the night, choking during sleep, tiredness during the day, headaches, and even bedwetting. Often, they get treated for ADHD instead of sleep apnea, which means the problem does not go away.
Sleep apnea in a Hopkins study has been shown to cause brain damage, namely in cognitive functions, and even lowering of IQ in children. We do not really know long term what other damages could occur, but this preliminary study is already alarming. As the child grows and develops, without treatment, he loses even more sleep, and causes more harm to his growing brain.
Causes of Childhood Sleep Apnea
Any obstruction of the airway causes sleep apnea. Usually, a swollen tonsil or tissue in the throat blocks air flow going into the lungs. Inflammation and infection cause swelling, and an operation may be needed to take out the infected portion.
Your kid could be also overweight. Many children have baby fat, and most grow out of obesity, so that is not a cause of concern until your child becomes older. It is adults that will have a more serious problem as their body weight seldom change. Still, you should encourage your child to exercise and engage in outdoor activities, instead of being cooped up at home all day.
Weak muscles due to lack of exercise, genetics or other ailments could cause sleep apnea as well. There may be nothing a parent can do in some cases except monitor the sleep of their children, if it is an uncurable condition.
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