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Sleep Apnea & Behavior Problems in Children

boy-sleepingThe past decade has recorded a consistent increase in the number of kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A recent study reveals that a significant number of these children do not have this condition. There is a relationship between their behavioral issues with sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBD) like sleep apnea.

Over 11,000 children were studied for six years, beginning from when they were six months old. Those with SRBD were 40-100% more likely to develop behavioral issues similar to ADHD by age seven than those without breathing problems. So, monitor your children with ADHD or showing ADHD symptom carefully for sleeping problems. This study is published in the pediatric journal.

Everybody, both young and old, will function better when they get a good night sleep. Still, adults and children react differently to sleep deprivation. When adults do not get a good night sleep, they act sluggish and tired. But when children are sleep deprived, they could become too active, uncooperative, and unable to focus- similar symptoms with ADHD.

So what exactly is SRBD?

SRBD is known to cause recurring sleep interaction during sleep. The windpipe becomes partially closed by soft tissues close to the back of the throat. There could be vibrations of these soft tissues resulting in snoring. SRBD worsen by sleeping on your back, which makes your jaw falls back, causing your tongue to go in front of your airway.

Overweight kids have soft tissues deposited at the back of their soft palate, which reduces the size of their airways. This phenomenon makes them more prone to sleep apnea.

Monitor children with SRBD for any of these signs:

  • Snoring
  • Panic attacks at night
  • Bed wetting
  • Interrupted breathing
  • Frequent tossing and turning
How sleep apnea in children is treated

Depending on the cause, there are various effective treatment of sleep apnea. If the cause is enlarged tonsils and adenoids, surgically removing them will stop the sleep apnea. The condition can also be treated using CPAP therapy (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). This therapy uses mild air pressure to keep the airway open. This pressure comes from a machine fitted on a mask and worn during sleep.


In some cases, a palatal expander (an orthodontic device) is used successfully on younger children still growing. This device works by slowly widening the roof of the mouth (palate) over time. Some bones do not permanently fuse until puberty. Those bones are separated, thereby expanding the palate. The device is actually for the treatment of crowded teeth, but the expansion created can also increase airflow.

Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) is used for older children who are no longer growing. OAT decrease the chances of the tongue obstructing the airway. This happens by wearing a custom-made oral device that repositions the jaw when you sleep, thereby making it less likely for the tongue to reach the back of the throat.

The first step to helping your child is to know what is making them not to get the necessary sleep needed for good health and well-being. A trained professional will help you figure this out and proffer the best solution to their problem.

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