Sleep Apnea

A child with sleep apnea lays in bed.

When your child doesn’t sleep well at night, is constantly cranky or seems overly sleepy during the day, your child may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. At Nemours, our sleep medicine experts are board-certified pediatricians and pulmonologists (lung doctors) with special training in evaluating the causes of, and treating sleep disorders such as sleep apnea in children.

Learn More About Sleep Apnea in Children

Most children have a restless night every now and then — but when it becomes a habit and your child is not getting enough sleep or quality sleep because of sleep apnea, it could lead to other physical and mental problems. Sleep apnea in children occurs when kids stop breathing during periods of sleep.

At Nemours, our team of sleep medicine experts will take a complete medical history of your child and perform a complete physical examination.

An overnight sleep study — polysomnography — conducted at one of our Sleep Centers, will measure your child’s quality, quantity, and breathing patterns during sleep to determine if your child has sleep apnea.

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Nemours Children's Hospital, Orlando

13535 Nemours Parkway
Orlando, FL 32827
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For Appointments: (407) 650-7715

Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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What to Bring

If you’ve made an appointment, please be sure to bring along the following items to help us check you in as efficiently as possible:

  • photo ID
  • medical and pharmacy insurance cards
  • preferred pharmacy name and phone number
  • names and dosage of all medications, including over-the-counter medication, your child is currently taking
  • guardianship and custody papers, if a legal guardian rather than a parent accompanies your child
  • any forms required for school, camp, sports, etc.
  • a list of prior immunizations
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Bring these forms for your first appointment:

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The pediatric sleep medicine experts from Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando are recognized as some of the nation’s best board-certified pediatricians and pulmonologists (lung doctors) who evaluate and treat sleep disorders like sleep apnea in children. In addition to working with highly skilled pediatric respiratory therapists and sleep technologists, we partner with other pediatric specialists such as otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat, or “ENT”), neurologists and allergists/immunologists to give your child the healthy benefits of restful sleep.

And for your convenience, some of the same sleep specialists your child sees at Nemours Children’s Hospital also offer appointments at our specialty care locations in downtown Orlando, Lake Mary and Melbourne.

Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea is a disorder that occurs when breathing pauses during sleep one or more times a night. Sleep apnea in children can affect daily mood and behavior, and can have long-term impact on cognitive functioning (the way your child thinks). Learning disabilities, hyperactivity and metabolic (growth and hormone) problems have also been linked to sleep apnea.

That’s why it’s important to have your child evaluated by experienced pediatric sleep specialists as soon as you see signs that your child isn’t getting enough sleep.

Symptoms of Pediatric Sleep Apnea
  • sleeping with mouth open and/or neck extended
  • loud snoring or breathing
  • bedwetting (enuresis)
  • restlessness during sleep
  • headaches and dry mouth upon waking
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
Causes of Sleep Apnea in Children

There are three types of apnea:  

  • obstructive apnea: caused by an airway blockage due to enlarged adenoids or tonsils located in the back of the throat
  • central apnea: caused by the brain failing to send signals to “breathe” (most common in premature babies)
  • mixed apnea: a combination of obstructive and central apnea often caused by immature breathing

Some medical conditions can also cause apnea, such as:

  • allergies
  • craniofacial disorders (affecting the face and jaw)
  • Down syndrome
  • musculoskeletal disorders (cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy)
  • obesity

Learn About These and Other Children’s Health Topics at Nemours »

Our Coordinated Approach to Pediatric Apnea

Your child’s Nemours care team includes pulmonologists (lung doctors) and other specialists working together across departments to evaluate and treat apnea and related conditions.

Pediatric Specialists on Your Child’s Care Team

Depending on the condition, your child may see specialists such as:

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea in Children

At your child’s first visit, Nemours specialists will perform a thorough physical examination and take a detailed medical and sleep history. We may also gain additional information from family members, teachers and other care providers your child sees regularly.

For further evaluation, your care team might order an X-ray of the upper airway, or a number of non-invasive ambulatory (at-home) diagnostic tests using portable devices that record data while your child sleeps and/or during wakefulness. These may include:

  • actigraphy (monitors movement)
  • maintenance of wakefulness test, or MWT (measures brain and body activity)
  • measurement of daytime sleepiness, or Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT)
  • oximetry (monitors blood oxygen and heart rate)

If more information is needed, your child may participate in an overnight sleep study, or polysomnography, at our hospital’s pediatric sleep lab.

Learn More About Pediatric Sleep Medicine/Polysomnography at Nemours Children's Hospital »

Treating Sleep Apnea in Children

Once we understand what’s causing your child’s apnea, we’ll develop a treatment plan. And because you’re the most important member on your child’s health care team, we include you in all of the decisions because, after all, no one knows your child as well as you.

Depending on your child’s condition, we may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • medication therapy (to relieve nasal congestion and allergies)
  • better diet/nutrition and physical activity (to reduce weight)
  • continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP (pushes oxygen into the air passages and lungs via a nasal and/or mouth mask)
  • surgery (to remove large tonsils and adenoids that make it difficult to breathe)

The Nemours Commitment to Family-Centered Care

At Nemours, we recognize the importance of the family in the care and healing process. Because many of the children we see have chronic illnesses that require repeated visits, we build strong relationships with our families that foster respect, dignity and collaboration. We’re also committed to educating children and families about the medical condition, and how best to manage it. Our goal is to get your child back to the business of being a kid as quickly as possible.

Learn More About the Nemours Commitment to Family-Centered Care »