When we think of a person with Obstructive Sleep apnea or OSA what usually comes to mind is an overweight adult male who snores and gasps in his sleep. Children, however are not immune to this condition. In fact we see young patients with symptoms of OSA fairly frequently. The consequences of undiagnosed or untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea in children can be:

  • Impaired growth, due to OSA affect on human growth hormone
  • Thinking processes can be negatively affected
  • Behavior can be negatively affected
  • Cardiorespiratory dysfunction, which is failure of the heart and or lungs

A recent study revealed that all patients referred for ADHD in this particular study had Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Related to this is a famous study which showed a large percentage of children who were being treated for ADHD, and who were in the lower 1/3 of their class academically, after having their tonsils and adenoids removed, were able to stop taking ADHD medicines and moved up to the top 1/3 of their class. It seems that many of these students were just chronically fatigued.

You may find it helpful to know some of the nighttime symptoms of OSA.

  • Loud breathing noise, and sometimes snoring
  • Restless sleep
  • Mouth breathing
  • The need for frequent trips to bathroom
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleepwalking, night terrors
  • ADHD
  • Increased sweating
  • Teeth grinding

Some daytime symptoms include:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Decreased performance at school
  • Behavioral problems, restlessness
  • Problems concentrating
  • Occasional sleepiness

Simply stated, Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by something obstructing the airway and thereby reducing the amount of oxygen in the blood (actually in the hemoglobin). Several structures can be the cause of the obstruction, but with children the most common cause is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. What I find really fascinating are some of the conditions that children have that are associated with OSA.

  • ADHD
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Severe crowding of the teeth
  • Narrow development of the upper arch
  • Developmental deficiencies of the sinuses
  • Negative effects upon growth hormone

Recent research recognizes that Sleep Disordered Breathing affects upwards to 3% of children. When we see young patients in our office, besides evaluating their teeth, we also look for signs of an obstructed airway. These symptoms can be a narrow palate (upper arch)and severe crowding of the teeth, enlarged tonsils, children who breath constantly through their mouth, a general appearance of fatigue, and even hyperactivity can be an indicator of some obstruction of the airway. If you suspect that your child has symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea please bring it to the attention of any of our team members.

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