Does your child struggle to concentrate at school, feel tired in the morning even after a full night’s sleep, or wet the bed? If so, your child may have sleep apnoea.
Sleep apnoea is a common disorder that causes a person’s breathing to pause multiple times throughout the night while they sleep. These breathing pauses can last from 10 seconds up to a minute and in severe cases can happen up to 30 times an hour. This results in the brain, and the rest of the body, not receiving enough oxygen.
Many people associate sleep apnoea with adult males who are often overweight, however sleep apnoea can affect anyone of any age. It is estimated that two to three children in every 100 suffer from sleep apnoea.
There are two types of sleep apnoea; obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) which occurs due to an obstruction of the airway often caused by big tonsils or adenoids, and central sleep apnoea which results from a problem with the brain controlling breathing. This latter form is much less common.
OSA is often caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Tonsils and adenoids grow most quickly from the ages of two to seven. In most cases the removal of the tonsils or adenoids will cure OSA. Other causes also include obesity, nasal allergies and hay fever or abnormal craniofacial structure.
If you believe that your child may have OSA then it is important to determine the cause. If it is due to their tonsils or adenoids then they will need to be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist. From here you may be asked to keep a sleep diary where you monitor your child’s sleep activity, looking out for issues such as snoring, restlessness, sweating, pauses in breathing and other abnormalities. This usually only takes about 15 minutes every night for a week.
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