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Children’s Sleep Apnea

Does your child snore? Does your child show other signs of disturbed sleep: long pauses in breathing, much tossing and turning in the bed, chronic mouth breathing during sleep, night sweats (owing to increased effort to breathe)? All these, and especially the snoring, are possible signs of sleep apnea, which is commoner among children than is generally recognized. It’s estimated than 1 to 4 percent of children suffer from sleep apnea, many of them being between 2 and 8 years old.

Furthermore, while there is a possibility that affected children will “grow out of” their sleep disorders, the evidence is steadily growing that untreated pediatric sleep disorders including sleep apnea can wreak a heavy toll while they persist. Studies have suggested that as many as 25 percent of children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may actually have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and that much of their learning difficulty and behavior problems can be the consequence of chronic fragmented sleep. Bed-wetting, sleep-walking, retarded growth, other hormonal and metabolic problems, even failure to thrive can be related to sleep apnea. Some researchers have charted a specific impact of sleep disordered breathing on “executive functions” of the brain: cognitive flexibility, self-monitoring, planning, organization, and self-regulation of affect and arousal.

If your child has Down syndrome, they are at risk for OSA. Other disorders that can cause OSA are: various neuromuscular and central nervous system abnormalities, craniofacial abnormalities; like Pierre Robin sequence- a condition present at birth in which an infant has a very small jaw, a tongue that tends to fall back and downward, and a soft cleft palate, Treacher Collins syndrome- a condition that is passed hereditarily through families and leads to defects of the face, and Crouzon syndrome- a genetic disorder characterized by the premature fusion of certain skull bones which affect the shape of the head and face.