Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when something blocks the upper airways during sleep. It is a condition that is most commonly associated with people aged 30 to 60, but it can affect people of all ages, even children. The obstruction of the airways during the night probably has you worried, but sleep apnoea is something that can be easily treated via the use a mask worn at night or the removal of the tonsils. If left untreated, it can leave your child feeling tired and irritable no matter how early you send them to bed.
Unfortunately, the only way you can know for sure whether your child has sleep apnoea is by having them take part in a sleep study. However, you can get an idea of whether you need to seek help by following the tips listed below.
Check for Risk Factors
Sleep apnoea has many causes, so you should look into the risk factors if you're worried about your child. Physical risk factors include a receding chin, excess body fat, and a deviated septum – the latter refers to the line of the nose being off centre. Children are also more likely to develop the condition if they are subjected to second-hand smoke, or if either you or their other parent suffers from the condition.
Listen While They Sleep
One of the ways that sleep apnoea tends to be noticed in adults is when a partner lets the sufferer know that they are snoring loudly. If you're worried that your child might have the condition, try listening outside their room while they sleep. If you hear loud snoring or gasping sounds, it's well worth seeing a medical professional. In fact, one study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that all children and adolescents should be screened for snoring in order to check for conditions such as sleep apnoea.
Watch for Unexplained Fatigue
When a person fails to get enough sleep each night, they will find themselves experiencing fatigue throughout the day; they may also find themselves suffering from frequent headaches, especially just after waking, as well as a lack of concentration. If your child always seems tired despite being sent to bed at the right hour, they might have sleep apnoea. You can also ask your child's teachers if they have noticed any signs of fatigue while they are at school.
Children need their sleep just as much as adults, so make sure you see a medical professional if you think one of your kids might be suffering from sleep apnoea.