Archive | Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea is a progressive sleeping disorder which both adults and children can suffer from. During sleep an ‘apneic’ will stop breathing for what may be seconds or even a couple of minutes. A person is started breathing again as the brain recognises it is been starved of oxygen so wakes a person from deep sleep whereupon breathing starts again. There are two very different reasons why this happens, hence the two different types of sleep apnea:

Central Sleep Apnea is the least common form of sleep apnea and the problem is with malfunctioning neurological signals been passed from the brain to the lungs. Breathing is automatically controlled by the brain as an involuntary movement. The brain knows how much oxygen the system has, and when it needs more, and needs to expel the waste carbon dioxide from our system, it instructs the lungs to breath. For some reason, in Central Sleep Apnea sufferers, this can fail from time to time, causing a person to cease breathing until the brain awakes the person to start breathing again.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea accounts for most cases of sleep apnea, and is caused by physical ‘obstructions’ within the airways during sleep. Obstructions can be anything from enlarged adenoids and tonsils, to inflammation and swelling, fat tissues, the tongue blocking the airways or less commonly tumours, growths or naturally narrow airways.

Whilst the above two types of sleep apnea are the only true kinds of sleep apnea, a person who suffers from both is often put into a third category called Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA).

Central sleep apnea is a common form of sleep apnea in children born prematurely. It may take a while for the correct breathing capacity within the brain to develop, and a premature baby may be required to sleep with ventilation equipment for a while.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea in children from the age of two onwards. Symptoms during sleep tend to be snoring, wheezing, and gasping for breath and generally restlessness during sleep. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is often caused by obesity, and can be a cause of obesity itself.

General symptoms of sleep apnea in children are tiredness, lethargy and irritability. A child with sleep apnea is also highly likely to exhibit cognitive or behavioural issues due to lack of sleep frustrating the child.

Sleep apnea is also linked to bedwetting in children, so this may be yet another clue that your child may be suffering from sleep apnea.

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