CAN KIDS HAVE SLEEP-DISORDERED BREATHING?

Updated: Aug 2

Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a general term for difficulty breathing while sleeping. There are many types of sleep-disordered breathing, in both adults and children, ranging from loud snoring to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).


Obstructive sleep apnea in children is characterized by continued episodes of upper airway obstruction that occurs during sleep. The airway obstruction may be complete or partial.


infant sleep-disordered breathing

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep. The disorder results in decreased oxygen in the blood and can briefly awaken sleepers throughout the night.



SIGNS OF SLEEP-DISORDERED BREATHING IN KIDS


During sleep, if a child's breathing is disrupted, the body thinks that the child is choking. This causes the body to go into fight or flight mode. The heart rate rises, blood pressure rises, the brain is aroused, and sleep can be disrupted. Oxygen levels may also drop.


All of those processes can put stress on your child's body and immune system. Imagine the damage that can take place if it happened over and over throughout the night while your child was sleeping.


There are several signs that may indicate that a child is suffering from sleep-disordered breathing:


  • Abnormal breathing when sleeping --- patterns where breathing stops and restarts or your child experiences labored breathing

  • Snoring or wheezing while sleeping

  • Grinding of the teeth

  • Recurring episodes of waking up or being restless all night

  • Frequent reports of nightmares

  • Increased crying or bedwetting episodes at night

  • Difficulty waking up

  • Frequent reports of dry mouth or headaches when waking up

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness

  • Hyperactivity or behavior problems (sleep disorders in children are often misdiagnosed as ADHD)

  • Chronic anxiety and allergies

  • Daytime mouth breathing


Mouth breathing, especially at a young age, can dramatically change the development and structure of a child's face. Some of the physical signs include an inability to seal lips, dark circles under the eyes, a long face, an open bite, a high or narrowing palate, or a dramatic change in posture.



WHY IS GOOD SLEEP HEALTH IMPORTANT FOR KIDS?


Why is good sleep important for children? Simply put, it's a matter of life or death as a lack of it can cause long-term physical and mental health issues.


Hopkins Children's and many other studies have shown that kids who consistently get an adequate amount of sleep have better attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure, obesity, and even depression.


We know how much sleep children need, but it has to be the right kind of restful sleep. In order for this to occur and for the sleep to be restorative, children need to breathe well while they sleep. Thus the urgency of identifying sleep-disordered breathing as earlier as possible.



HOW CAN I TELL IF MY CHILD HAS AN AIRWAY DISORDER?


There are several signs and symptoms to look for that will help to identify if your child might have an airway disorder. Ask yourself the following:


  • Does your child sleep through the night?

  • How many times does your child chew each bite or mouthful before swallowing?

  • Does your child almost always have a stuffy nose?

  • Does your child have a "worried" expression when swallowing?

  • Does your child sleep with an open mouth?

These are just a few of the questions that can help you identify if your child might be dealing with a sleep-breathing or other airway disorder.


As with any medical condition, consult your child's pediatrician should you see any of these symptoms in your child or if you suspect your child is suffering from an airway disorder.