Has your child been snoring since long? Chances are he or she might be suffering from Sleep-disordered Breathing condition (SBD) or Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
SBD is a generic term for breathing difficulties which occur during sleep. This condition can range from frequent loud snoring to OSA – a condition in which repeated there are repeated episodes of partial or complete blockage in the airway during sleep.
When a child’s breathing is disturbed during his or her sleep, the body perceives it as a choking episode. As a result, the heart rate slows down, the blood pressure rises, the brain is aroused and eventually the sleep is disturbed. Oxygen levels in the blood can also drop.
Let’s look at some of the long-term health risks associated with untreated sleep apnea in children:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD
It is one of the most prominent long-term consequences associated with pediatric sleep apnea. Approximately 95% of patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA have some level of attention problems. This has eventually led to a high rate of misdiagnosis of ADHD. When children become sleep deprived they may show behavioral issues such as being defiant or moody and difficulty in paying attention in school or at home. These symptoms highly overlap with symptoms of ADHD which leads to frequent misdiagnosis of sleep apnea as ADHD. However, the positive aspect is that most of the children who receive treatment for sleep apnea show a reversal with their attention and behavior issues.
Affects Growth and Failure to Thrive
OSA can affect really young children and even infants. In case of infants and toddlers, this may result in a failure to thrive which is a condition in which the baby or small child remains underweight. The baby or the small child may also fall behind on developmental milestones such as babbling, talking, crawling or walking on time.
Also, during sleep, human growth hormone is released and seems to be at its peak at the onset of deep sleep. In case of kids who suffer from sleep apnea, the sleep cycle is so disrupted that they are unable to enter or maintain sound or deep sleep. This affects the level of human growth hormone, which in turn affects their stature. Thankfully, timely diagnosis and proper treatment of sleep apnea can reverse the condition of failure to thrive. Talk to your pediatric dentist about it.
Breathing Through Mouth
Sleep apnea is largely associated with heavy mouth breathing. This may result in an elongated facial structure. This further causes a condition known as retrognathia in which the jaw tends to sit farther back. This makes the airway even smaller, thus worsening the sleep apnea. Besides, breathing through mouth for prolonged period may also lead to periodontal diseases and dental problems.
Snoring was believed to be a relatively benign condition in children up until recently. However, some of the recent research suggests that snoring in children even without measurable sleep apneas, is connected to cognitive, psychosocial and behavioral problems. Children who snore often perform poorly on standardized tests for mental development including some types of Intelligence Quotient tests.
Increases Risk of Behavioral Problems
Studies have been conducted which tested children who suffered from breathing problems during sleep and those who slept without any issues. The outcomes of these studies showed that children with the most serious behavioral problems were the ones who suffered from sleep-disordered breathing symptoms which persisted and become the most severe at the age of 30 months.
SBD may also cause the body to have increased daytime fatigue or resistance to insulin which eventually leads to decreased physical activity. If neglected for long, this may lead to obesity.
Apart from eliminating the risks listed above, timely treatment of sleep apnea in children has several other benefits such as a healthier BMI, proper growth, emotional stability, improved energy and mood etc. Thus, if you notice any signs of sleep apnea in your child, talk to your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
A dental marketer at Michael G. Long DDS, Fresno, CA and a believer in holistic health, Grace lives by the rule that health and happiness go hand in hand. She writes on various dental topics focusing on healthy living and holistic health. When she’s not working or blogging, she enjoys spending her time with her family and volunteering at the local youth centers where she educates children about the importance of health and fitness.
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