Obstructed sleep apnea in children occurs when your child experiences brief pauses in their breathing pattern that last from a few seconds to minutes, resulting in your child feeling tired and sleepy the next day.
There are several types of apnea in children:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This is the most common type of apnea and is usually caused by a blockage of the airway due to enlarged tonsils and adenoidal tissue near the nasal passages.
- Central sleep apnea: This happens when the part of the brain that controls breathing doesn’t start or maintain the breathing process properly. Common in very premature infants.
- Mixed sleep apnea: A combination of central and obstructive apnea, mixed apnea is usually a sign of an immature breathing pattern and may occur when a child is awake or asleep.
A sleep medicine expert can help get to the bottom of your child’s sleep issues with an overnight sleep test called polysomnography, which will measure your child’s quality, quantity and breathing patterns during sleep.
Depending on the results from your child’s sleep study, treatments for apnea may include:
- medications: to relieve nasal congestion and allergies
- increased activity and better nutrition: recommended for overweight children
- continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): a nasal and/or mouth mask that forces air to send oxygenated air into the air passages and lungs
- surgery: to remove large tonsils and adenoids that make it difficult to breath
From Nemours' KidsHealth
- What Causes Night Terrors?
- Should I Be Worried About My Child's Nightmares?
- Bruxism (Teeth Grinding or Clenching)
- Apnea of Prematurity
- Sleep and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
- Sleep and Newborns
- Sleep and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old
- Sleep and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old
- Sleep and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old
- Enlarged Adenoids
- Sleep and Your Preschooler
- Night Terrors
- Sleep Problems in Teens
Trusted External Resources
What Causes Night Terrors?
My grandsons, who are 3 and 4 years old, have been having night terrors since they were each 18 months old. What causes these episodes?
Night terrors are somewhat mysterious. It might seem as though they're the same as a bad dream, but they aren't. Dreams occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a stage of sleep when the eyes move quickly and heart rate and breathing may be erratic. Night terrors happen during the transition between deep sleep and another level of sleep, and kids don’t remember them in the morning.
The good news is that night terrors don't seem to have any harmful effects on kids who have them, and they usually outgrow them. Sometimes night terrors are more common in kids who are going through stressful life events, on certain medications, not getting enough sleep, or having too much caffeine.
Reviewed by: Mary Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2010
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