Sleep Apnea in Children

 

Sleep Apnea pic
Sleep Apnea
Image: sleepapnea.org

Dr. Frank Brettschneider, who heads an otolaryngology practice, helps patients with nose, ear, and throat conditions, including sleep apnea. In addition to seeing adults with the condition, Dr. Frank Brettschneider has treated children experiencing the sleep disorder.

Children with sleep apnea, a condition in which their breathing becomes blocked during the night, can experience a number of negative side effects on their overall health and well-being. For instance, they might have headaches or feel sleepy during the school day due to poorer-quality sleep at night. Parents often have a tough time waking up a child with sleep apnea in the morning. They might also notice that the child snores loudly at night and breathes through his or her mouth.

Sleep apnea in children has a number of possible causes. For instance, larger-than-normal adenoids and tonsils can partially block air flow as the child breathes while asleep. Excess weight, factors related to jaw and mouth structure, and experiencing second-hand cigarette smoke may be other contributing factors. If parents suspect that their child has sleep apnea, they should take him or her to a qualified medical professional for evaluation and treatment to address the issue as necessary.

“An Overview of Obstructive Sleep Apnea,” by Dr. Frank Brettschneider

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, results from partial to total obstruction of the upper airways during the night with complete cessation of breathing for 20 or more seconds. This often causes snoring as the soft palette vibrates while the sleeper tries to force air through the narrowed passage.

Recurrent sleep apnea patients often complain of inadequate rest and may experience fatigue from low blood oxygen, high blood pressure, and damage leading to serious heart disease. Additional complications can include damage to the hippocampus and frontal cortex of the brain, reducing the ability to process nonverbal information.

Non-surgical treatment includes the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine or a mouth guard-like device, known as a mandibular advancement splint, which can reposition the soft tissue of the mouth and treat mild cases of apnea. Surgical treatment, however, is recommended for severe cases or for patients unable to properly use a CPAP machine due to other medical conditions. Two common surgical solutions include the pillar procedure for mild cases, which involves inserting small supports into the soft palate, and an uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) for extreme cases, which requires the removal of the uvula and tonsils.

About the Author:
Dr. Frank Brettschneider is a triple board-certified Otolaryngologist and graduated in the top 5 percent of his class at Michigan State University.