Sleep Apnea In Kids And Teens

Sleep Apnea In Kids And Teens

Discover the signs, symptoms, and treatments for sleep apnea in kids and teens. Get your child the restful sleep they need.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects people of all ages, including kids and teens. It is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, causing disrupted sleep patterns and potentially leading to serious health issues.

Although it is often associated with adults, sleep apnea in children and teens can have significant consequences if left untreated. Children with sleep apnea may experience symptoms such as snoring, difficulty breathing during the night, restless sleep, and daytime fatigue.

If left untreated, it can lead to behavioral problems, poor school performance, and even cardiovascular disease later in life. It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the signs of sleep apnea in their children and seek medical attention if necessary to ensure proper treatment and management of the condition.

Understanding Sleep Apnea In Children And Teens

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects both children and teens. It is characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep, leading to disruptions in sleep patterns. These disruptions can result in a variety of symptoms, including daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and mood swings.

There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA occurs when the airway becomes blocked during sleep due to the relaxation of the throat muscles or other obstructions. CSA occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Risk factors for developing sleep apnea include obesity, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, family history of the disorder, and certain medical conditions such as Down syndrome.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences on a child’s physical and mental health. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disorder and seek medical attention if necessary.

Causes And Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors of sleep apnea in kids and teens can be varied.

  • Some children may have a narrow airway, which can cause breathing difficulties during sleep.
  • Obesity is also a significant contributor to sleep apnea among children.
  • Children who have enlarged tonsils or adenoids are at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
  • Genetics can also play a role in causing sleep apnea in kids and teens. If one or both parents have sleep apnea, their children are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Children with neurological disorders like cerebral palsy or Down syndrome are at an increased risk of having sleep apnea.

Symptoms And Diagnosis

Identifying sleep apnea in kids and teens can be difficult, as the symptoms can vary widely. One common symptom is loud snoring, especially if it is interrupted by pauses in breathing or gasping for air. Other symptoms may include restless sleep, excessive sweating during sleep, bedwetting, daytime sleepiness or fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and poor academic performance.

It’s important to note that not all children with sleep apnea snore loudly – some may simply breathe noisily or heavily during sleep. If you suspect your child may have sleep apnea, it’s important to talk to their pediatrician. The doctor will likely ask questions about your child’s sleep habits and medical history and perform a physical exam.

Depending on the severity of their symptoms, they may refer your child to a specialist for further testing or treatment. Diagnosis typically involves a sleep study (polysomnography) to monitor your child’s breathing patterns and other vital signs while asleep.

While treatment options for children with sleep apnea vary depending on the severity of their condition, lifestyle changes are often recommended as a first step. This may include losing weight if necessary (for overweight children), avoiding caffeine and large meals before bedtime, establishing a regular bedtime routine, and creating a comfortable sleeping environment.

Other treatments include using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy during sleep to keep the airways open or surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids that are blocking airflow during sleep (Benefits of CPAP Therapy).

With proper diagnosis and treatment, most children with sleep apnea can experience improved quality of life and better overall health.

Treatment Options

Treatment for sleep apnea in kids and teens depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases of sleep apnea may only require lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding certain medications, and changing sleeping positions. However, for moderate to severe cases, medical intervention is necessary.

One common treatment option for sleep apnea in children is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This involves wearing a mask over the nose and mouth while sleeping to keep the airways open.

Other options include bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) and adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV), which are similar to CPAP but offer different levels of air pressure.

Surgery may also be an option for children with severe sleep apnea who do not respond well to other treatments. Adenotonsillectomy, removal of the tonsils and adenoids, is the most common surgical procedure for treating sleep apnea in children. However, other surgeries such as orthognathic surgery or tracheostomy may be recommended in rare cases.

It is important to discuss all treatment options with a qualified healthcare provider before making any decisions.

Long-Term Consequences Of Untreated Sleep Apnea In Kids And Teens

Untreated sleep apnea in kids and teens can have serious long-term consequences. One of the most significant risks is developing cardiovascular problems later in life. Sleep apnea causes a lack of oxygen to the body, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Studies have shown that children with untreated sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing these conditions as adults.

Another consequence of untreated sleep apnea is behavioral problems. Children with sleep apnea often experience difficulty concentrating, irritability, and hyperactivity. These symptoms can impact their performance at school and their relationships with peers and family members.

Additionally, untreated sleep apnea can cause chronic fatigue, which further exacerbates behavior issues.

In addition to physical and behavioral consequences, untreated sleep apnea can also affect mental health. Children with sleep apnea are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than those without the condition. The lack of quality restorative sleep can impact mood regulation and emotional stability over time.

It is essential for parents to recognize the signs of sleep apnea in their children and seek treatment promptly to prevent any long-term effects on their overall health and well-being.


In conclusion, sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects many children and teens. It can have various causes and risk factors, and often goes undiagnosed due to its symptoms being mistaken for other conditions.

However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, children and teens with sleep apnea can lead healthier lives.

Parents should be aware of the signs of sleep apnea in their children and seek medical attention if they suspect their child may be suffering from it.

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to long-term consequences such as behavioral issues, cognitive impairment, and even cardiovascular problems.

By taking action early on, parents can help their children get the treatment they need to improve their quality of life.

Is it common for a 19 year old to have sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can occur at any age, including in teenagers and young adults. However, it is most common in older adults, particularly those over the age of 40. Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea, including obesity, smoking, use of alcohol or sedatives, and having a family history of sleep apnea.

In younger individuals, sleep apnea is often associated with obesity, especially in the presence of symptoms like loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep, and abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking. Additionally, certain physical attributes like a narrow airway, a thick neck, or a round head may also increase the risk.

That said, it’s less common for a 19-year-old to have sleep apnea compared to older adults, but it’s not unheard of. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, it would be wise to consult a healthcare professional. They can evaluate symptoms, possibly recommend a sleep study, and provide appropriate treatment options if sleep apnea is diagnosed.

Connie Lachlan
Connie Lachlan

Dr. Connie Lachlan is a compassionate pediatrician with 15 years' experience in child health, specializing in chronic conditions and child development. Known for her preventive approach to healthcare, Dr. Lachlan actively contributes to pediatric research and community health education. Besides her professional commitments, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and volunteering for children's charities.

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