A study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine indicates that “limited epidemiologic data suggest that the [Sleep Apnea] disorder affects 2 to 3 percent of middle-school children, and as many as 13 percent of children aged 3 to 6 years. Prevalence may be two- to fourfold higher in vulnerable populations, such as in blacks and children born preterm, as well as an increase in symptoms in Hispanic children, and those from poor neighborhoods.”
The sound of a child snoring often draws more amusement than concern from parents, but according to Dr. Christian Guilleminault, an extensively published and recognized authority on the subject of sleep apnea, childhood snoring can be a warning sign for parents.
Guilleminault, who pioneered sleep research at Stanford University, asserted all snoring children experience some obstruction of breathing. However, not all snorers suffer from Sleep Apnea, which is defined as a cessation of airflow of at least 10 seconds in duration during nighttime sleep.
Because Sleep Apnea symptoms in children can be misleading, Dr Brian Rotskoff of Illinois Allergy and Asthma Center suggests parents bring the topic up with Pediatricians and other Childhood Health Professionals. “The possibility is worth checking out for no other reason than to eliminate Sleep Apnea as a culprit for other symptoms,” he said. “This is important because it can lead to low oxygen levels, developmental delays, high blood pressure, and mood changes.”
Rotskoff points out that Sleep Apnea symptoms’ in children are important to recognize as they can mimic symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). “It’s been well studied that children with sleep disorders can have many of the same symptoms such as mood disorders, irritability, bedwetting, sleepiness during the day, and attention deficit,” he said. “My focus started in a personal way as an adult with Sleep Apnea. You develop a practical understanding of the disease and the importance of it. As a consequence of that, I’ve studied and researched Sleep Apnea in children and incorporated that into my clinical practice.”
According to Rotskoff, parents should consider visiting their pediatrician if their child displays snoring, has restless sleep in conjunction with bedwetting and, one of the most important clues; mouth breathing during the day.
Some parents might notice their child sleeping in awkward positions in order to keep their airway open. “I had a patient who noticed their child slept with their head propped up when they didn’t sleep well,” Rotskoff said. “Any child who has difficulties with attention or mood changes should be screened for Sleep Apnea to look for nasal congestion, and allergies. Not all children with ADHD have Sleep Apnea but it can be present.”
He suggests parents look for experts in the fields of Ear, Nose, and Throat as well as Allergists, but also points out that some Pediatricians and Dentists may screen for symptoms that might indicate Sleep Apnea. “Adenoids enlargement is considered one of the main causes of sleep apnea in children from age two through six. But, if the symptoms are mild, treating allergies and congestion might be enough.”