It is important for us to keep our children safe, but there are some elements of which we seem to be powerless. Sleep apnea, for example, is one of those, and it can be very frustrating when your child’s body seems to attack itself. Obstructive sleep apnea, for example, is a collapse of the airway, often caused by oversized tongue or tonsils which cause an obstruction.
Central sleep apnea causes muscle failure at a neural level, and for both types, the cause is mostly unknown. Studies have been performed of course, but most of them have been inconclusive, and a real, medicinal treatment for the condition always seems to be just out of reach. So, when is a sleeping disorder test in order for your child? First, let’s talk a bit about sleep apnea and children.
Deciding When to Order your Child a Sleeping Disorder Test
It is a fact that most children snore at some point in their lives; if you don’t remember snoring as a child then you were likely not told. While every child probably snores, only 2-3% are actually afflicted with sleep apnea, and the snoring itself can be traced back to several causes including:
- Deviated Septum
- Smoke Exposure
- Reduced Muscle Tone
- Enlarged Tonsils
With most children, the development of sleep apnea can be attributed to the enlarged tonsils or adenoids, which, when swollen, block the airway during sleep. This stops airflow from reaching the respiratory system, causing blood oxygen levels to dive. As per any other case of sleep apnea, the child will make gasping or choking sounds until the body is able to return to its normal breathing routine. We’ve stated this on other blogs, but we’re going to state it again here for good measure: sleep apnea triggers the body’s fight or flight routine, meaning the child will experience a drowning or choking sensation in their sleep.
Treating Sleep Apnea in Children
Finding a treatment can be tough, but the first thing you need to know is that many children will actually outgrow their sleep apnea over the years. As they age their throats become larger and their throat muscles become stronger. If that fails, however, there are other treatments that might be considered:
- Tonsil Removal – If tonsils and adenoids are to blame for the apnea, it becomes important to remove those glands, which in fact cures 80-90% of apnea sufferers.
- CPAP – Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy involves an oxygen concentrator and a sleep mask which forces air down the child’s throat and allows them to breathe uninterrupted.
- Dental Appliances – For children whose facial bone growth is nearing completion, dental appliances can help to keep the airway open.
- Weight Management – Obesity is still a serious problem in America and finding a way to treat it in children will help them to lead a happier life later on without the burden of sleep apnea.
The last item in the bulleted list is perhaps one of the most important; controlling childhood obesity will go a long way toward stopping sleep apnea, the same as it would in adults. There is no magic pill to snuff out obesity; it must be taken care of through a change of lifestyle including diet and exercise. In most cases, once the weight is reduced, the sleep apnea will subside, and while this should be done anyway, testing for sleep apnea is extremely important.
Testing for Sleep Apnea
Testing for this condition is normally done at home. There was a time when in-lab tests were necessary, but times have changed, and you can now take a sleep apnea test in the comfort of your own bed while sending the results to your primary care physician. Not only is it more convenient, it’s a better way to get a more accurate result, in the end. After all, sleeping at home provides more realistic conditions and ultimately a better night’s sleep, if there is such a thing when suffering from apnea. Ultimately, the condition is treatable, especially in children who are likely to outgrow it before they emerge into adulthood.
VirtuOx is the leader in home sleep tests and pulse oximetry.
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