Pediatric Sleep Apnea

While sleep apnea is more common in adults, 2-3% of children also suffer from it. Children who habitually snore, as much as 10-20%, are more likely to be diagnosed. The most common factor for sleep apnea in children is large tonsils and adenoids, though obesity, craniofacial abnormalities and neuromuscular disorders can also contribute. For children who have sleep apnea, physical symptoms can include:

  • Snoring or heavy mouth breathing
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Restless sleep
  • Pauses in breathing, followed by gasps or snorts
  • Unusual sleeping positions
  • Sleepwalking or night terrors
  • Possible bedwetting

In children, symptoms generally manifest through their behavior rather than physical signs. Children may find it hard to wake up in the morning or to stay awake during the day. They may have a short attention span at school. These signs often come across as learning problems such as ADD or ADHD. In fact, studies have shown that as much as 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD may actually have pediatric sleep apnea, since symptoms for both conditions are similar and may be hard to differentiate.

Obstructive sleep apnea can be detrimental to a child’s development, not only inhibiting their learning skills with lack of sleep, but also affecting their bodily health by causing cardiovascular problems. It is highly recommended that sleep apnea in children is treated as soon as possible so as not to inhibit their physical and cognitive development.

At Dental Sleep Medicine Hawaii, Dr. Dennis Nagata can screen children with ADD or ADHD to determine if they have sleep apnea. This can be done through a polysomnogram, or an overnight sleep study, during which he can record breathing patterns, oxygen levels, brain activity, heart rate and other factors. Your child is still comfortable during the study and can sleep normally. Once sleep apnea has been diagnosed, Dr. Nagata can determine which treatment is best for your child.

Dr Nagata offers mouth taping treatments, which involve taping the mouth shut before bedtime so that children are prompted to breathe through their nose while they sleep. Dr. Nagata can also help with proper jaw development to ensure your child’s airway develops correctly. It may be as simple as removing the tonsils and adenoids or surgically enhancing your child’s oral structure if the main cause is a craniofacial disorder. If this is the case, our team can ensure that your child is as comfortable as possible during the procedure. We also recommend incorporating lifestyle changes if your child is considered obese. Losing weight can generate a significant change in the way your child sleeps.

If you think your child may be suffering from sleep apnea, call our team at 808-946-6326 to schedule an appointment with our dentist in Honolulu, Hawaii. He can observe your child and determine what solutions are best to help your child get a good night’s sleep. If you are noticing symptoms of sleep apnea, we encourage you to make an appointment as soon as possible, to ensure that your child gets the help they need. Talk with one of our team members today!