This week in our "helping kids sleep" series, I thought we should mention sleep apnea. Reader Jennifer emailed me saying "My son is a mouth breather, does that effect sleep?
Pediatric Sleep Specialist Dr. Sarah Zallek said mouth breathing can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, the most common medical problem she sees in her practice. She said, "So, mouth breathing can be a sign of a tendency toward sleep apnea because of upper airway narrowing. It can also be a cause of some sleep apnea because of the way the jaw can relax and collapse the airway."
Here's the definition of sleep apnea according to the American Sleep Apnea Association:
"There are three types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.
In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality."
My son was diagnosed with obstructive mouth breathing a month and a half ago. He consistently wakes up at night. One of the main treatments for obstructive sleep apnea is a tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy or both. My four year had the surgery a month ago.
Here are the links to those posts:
The last few days he seems to be doing better. He is waking up twice a night screaming instead of 6-8 times a night. So, I am hopeful he will sleep through the night at some point. I can't say whether having the surgery cured him. I am not necessarily convinced he had sleep apnea in the first place.
"More than twelve million Americans have sleep apnea, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Yet still because of the lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals, the vast majority remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences.
Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues. "
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea: from About.com
- Although snoring is a common symptom in children with obstructive sleep apnea, it is important to remember that between 10-20 percent of normal children snore (primary snoring) on a regular or intermittent basis.
- failure to thrive (weight loss or poor weight gain)
- mouth breathing
- enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- problems sleeping and restless sleep
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- daytime cognitive and behavior problems, including problems paying attention, aggressive behavior and hyperactivity, which can lead to problems at school
Treatment of Sleep Apnea:
- Treating Allergies
- Weight loss
- Surgery to remove Tonsils/Adenoids
- Cpap (continuous positive airway pressure)
Here are the links to the other stories I have covered on the blog dealing with sleep and kids:
How many hours of sleep do kids need?
"The Sleep Fairy" Book for toddlers
Older kids losing sleep when new baby arrives
Do you or your kids suffer from sleep apnea?