Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

  • Sleep apnea is a condition where the breathing airways (as shown in the figure) close partially or completely during sleep.
  • This leads to a poor sleep quality (also called as a fragmented sleep). Sleep apnea also leads to disturbances in the blood levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide (waste gas).

How common is sleep apnea in children?

  • International data suggests that around 1-5 out of a hundred would have sleep apnea!

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea in children?

  • The primary symptom of sleep apnea is snoring during sleep. But all children with snoring do Not have sleep apnea.
  • This snoring can be associated with intermittent gasps , short pauses, bed wetting and abnormal sleep postures (like sleeping with neck hyperextended)
  • There can be associated day time symptoms like morning headaches, excessive day time sleepiness and some children might become hyperactive.

What are the conditions which predispose a child to have sleep apnea?

  • The most common conditions which are associated with sleep apnea in children are adenoid enlargement and obesity.
  • Others are children with neuromuscular disorders, craniofacial syndromes, pierre robin syndrome, Down’s syndrome etc. These are detailed in the relevant sections.

How do you diagnose sleep apnea in children?

  • Well the question is that which child with snoring has sleep apnea. It is a difficult question to answer since No signs and symptoms would give us a good clue.
  • Hence, children who have a adenoid hypertrophy or obesity or other complex conditions AND are snoring should be evaluated for sleep apnea.
  • Sleep study in children is the GOLD STANDARD for diagnosis of sleep apnea. For more on sleep study in children click here.