It is well known that there is a myriad of co-morbidities associated with sleep apnea, and this is true for both adults and children. The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona treats patients as young as two years old. Home to the “Top Doc” in the area as voted by his peers, the triple board-certified Dr. Ruchir P. Patel is proud to operate the “Face of Sleep Medicine” in Arizona where you (and your children) can get the diagnosis and treatment you need for sleep disorders. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea, although it is much more prevalent in adults than children. Still, when children do struggle with sleep apnea, it can lead to a variety of problems—and even impact their blood pressure.

According to a recent statement by the American Heart Association, children and adolescents can suffer with OSA just like adults, and up to six percent of this younger population have OSA. Like adults, many of them are undiagnosed. Sleep apnea is a sleep disruption that “pauses” breathing while asleep, and it is also linked to obesity, changes in heart structure, lipid disorders, and elevated blood pressure. The only way to diagnose OSA is by visiting a sleep specialist.

Common Signs of OSA

Some of the most obvious signs of OSA in people of all ages occur during sleep. Those with OSA might present with labored breathing, gasping, snoring, or snorting. Parents can watch for this while children sleep, but these are not the only signs and symptoms of OSA. Feeling tired and fatigued even when it seems a person gets enough sleep is also common. Ultimately, a sleep specialist will be able to diagnose OSA, which can then lead to management/treatment.

Children who are obese or have enlarged tonsils are at an especially increased risk of OSA. Although CPAP therapy is the gold standard in immediately treating OSA, lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and exercise or related interventions such as removing the tonsils may also be in order. According to recent research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, “The likelihood of children having disordered breathing during sleep and, in particular, obstructive sleep apnea, may be due to enlargement of the tonsils, adenoids, or a child’s facial structure.” There is also low muscle tone, lower airway disease, allergic rhinitis, malformations of the craniofacial area, neuromuscular disorders, and instances of being born prematurely that can increase the odds of developing OSA. Still, the authors urge parents to consider the prevalence of obesity as that is a more common factor in OSA development. This is particularly prevalent since 30 – 60 percent of adolescents are considered obese today and have OSA.

The Dangers of High Blood Pressure

When blood pressure is elevated, that is linked to insulin resistance as well as an increase in lipid levels. All of these factors together can contribute to poor cardiovascular health as the children grow older. However, this is just one possible issue for children with OSA. When normal and restorative sleep is disrupted, it can also affect emotional health, metabolism, and the immune system in children.

Your child might have OSA if you notice they snore at least three times per week, if they sleep with their neck hyperextended, if they complain about a headache when waking up, or if you notice any signs of upper airway obstruction or labored breathing while they sleep. Good quality sleep is a must for everyone, but particularly for developing children. The sooner you meet with a sleep specialist, the sooner you can get a diagnosis and, if applicable, treatment. Today’s CPAP therapy technology is so advanced that customized fits are standard. It is essential that CPAP therapy is adhered to every time a person sleeps, and at The Insomnia and Sleep Institute we work closely with patients of virtually all ages to help them achieve quality sleep.

Here, patients enjoy unparalleled staffing levels. We are proud to serve you and your family at this outcome-driven facility where your consultation is with a sleep specialist. No referral is needed to schedule your appointment at The Insomnia and Sleep Institute. If you suspect someone in your family has OSA or any sleep disorder, contact our office today by calling the office or completing the contact form now.