Sleep apnea in children is classified as either obstructive (caused by an obstruction), central or mixed. Central sleep apnea has a neurological cause, while mixed means that the apnea is caused by an obstruction and by a problem in the brain. Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association, affecting up to 3 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 6.
All three types of sleep apnea disturb the nighttime rest of children. As a result, one of the symptoms is excessive daytime sleepiness. Children with sleep apnea may want to take a lot of naps. They may feel too drowsy to engage in normal activities, especially those that involve a lot of energy. In fact, these children may lack the energy to even participate in events that they would normally look forward to, such as a birthday party or family outing.
Children with sleep apnea sleep restlessly. They make wake up often or snore. The snoring may be strange-sounding, much like raspy or squeaky breathing. Some children who suffer from sleep apnea sleep in odd positions, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Other nighttime symptoms include excess perspiration, frequent bed-wetting episodes (more than the occasional accident), and gasping for breath and choking. These children may also frequently suffer from nightmares and night terrors.
Poor Physical Development
A good night’s sleep is essential to healthy development in children. Unfortunately, children who suffer from sleep apnea may have poor physical development. They may have high blood pressure and may also be overweight or, alternately, small for their ages. Many children who suffer from sleep apnea wake up with a dry, cracked mouth in the morning. It is also common for these children to suffer from headaches.
A lack of good sleep also affects a child’s personality. Children who have sleep apnea may go through personality changes, according to Stanford University. Often, they awake in the morning feeling confused and cranky. They may be irritable or depressed and have difficulty concentrating, especially in school. Alternately, children who suffer from sleep apnea may show signs of hyperactive behavior.
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