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Today's Family Magazine

Could sleep apnea be the cause of your child’s poor sleep?

Aug 05, 2016 08:48AM ● By Today's Family
By Cleveland Clinic • Published May 2016

Sleep apnea is not just an adult problem. The condition, in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted or paused during sleep, affects more than 18 million American adults. But obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) also affects between one to three percent of children.

“The criteria to diagnose sleep apnea varies, but the most common cause in children is enlarged tonsils and adenoids, making adenotonsillectomy one of the top four surgeries in the U.S. after ear tubes and circumcision. Today, removal of the tonsils and adenoids is more common for sleep apnea than for recurrent infections,” says Brandon Hopkins, MD, a specialist in pediatric otolaryngology (commonly referred to as ear, nose and throat or ENT) with Cleveland Clinic’s Head & Neck Institute. Dr. Hopkins treats patients at the main campus and Willoughby Hills Family Health Center.

Common symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea include:
• Loud or noisy breathing, snoring or mouth breathing during sleep
• Brief pauses in breathing or difficulty breathing during sleep
• Restless sleep (lots of tossing and turning)
• Sweating heavily during sleep
• Bedwetting
• Sleeping in odd positions (neck hyperextended)
• Inattentiveness and lack of focus at school
• Excessive daytime sleepiness
• Poor academic performance
• Irritable mood, aggressiveness, other behavioral problems
• Morning headaches

“Many parents snore, so they assume it’s normal for children to snore as well, but that’s not the case,” says Dr. Hopkins. “More than 90 percent of children are restful sleepers, so if a child snores or frequently exhibits other symptoms of sleep apnea, parents should discuss their concerns with their pediatrician. An ENT evaluation, sleep study or pediatric sleep medicine evaluation may also be recommended.”

Depending on the cause of the obstruction, pediatric sleep apnea treatments include:
• Surgery
• Diet and exercise to encourage weight loss
• Medications
• Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which a machine generates air that is blown into the child’s nasal passages and airway via a mask worn over the nose during sleep

To make an appointment with Dr. Hopkins or another Cleveland Clinic pediatric ENT specialist, please call 216-444-8500. Cleveland Clinic offers same-day appointments.