How to Diagnose Sleep Apnea in Children

Just about any parent will affirm that almost every child has sleeping issues at one time or another. Whether it’s waking multiple times in the night, sleeping with parents, or wetting the bed, most of us parents have to deal with a lack of sleep because of our children at least some of the time. But there are some sleep issues that can be a little more serious, and sleep apnea in children is one of those that need to be taken seriously. If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to talk with a health care professional.

How to Diagnose Sleep Apnea in Children

Are you an armchair doctor? Do you love to pore over the Internet to discover what’s going on with your child (or yourself)? Me too. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you double check with the doctor when needed. It’s one thing to “diagnose” your child with a cold or a sore throat. But when you suspect something serious could be going on, go ahead and make your amateur diagnosis, but then get the opinion of your child’s doctor as well.

So how do you diagnose sleep apnea in children? Read on to find out what the symptoms are and what to look for. If you see similar patterns with your own child, he or she may have sleep apnea. But maybe not. Get a second opinion if you suspect sleep apnea.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children

Many of the signs of sleep apnea in children revolve around the fact that sleep apnea results in poor quality sleep. So if your child has sleep apnea, you may see irritability during the day, excessive sleepiness, difficulty with learning and concentration, and personality changes. Depression, failure to grow, and weight loss or gain are also some of the symptoms you may see. Your child may also display hyperactivity, have headaches during the day, or complain about poor sleep.

If you watch your child while sleeping, you may see irregular breathing, snoring, snorting or gasping, or heavy perspiration. You may also notice that your child has night terrors or nightmares, bedwetting problems, or sleeping with the mouth open.

Not every child will experience all the symptoms, so don’t expect to see that. One of the main syptoms that tip people off is excessive snoring, actually. Most adults with sleep apnea are also overweight, but this isn’t necessarily the case with children. Sleep apnea symptoms in children can be more subtle, so pay attention to your child’s sleep habits and see if there’s a pattern there.

Does My Child Have Sleep Apnea?

Do You Know if Your Child Suffers from Sleep Apnea? Take the Quiz!

Sleep Apnea in Children Quiz

Do you need a quick checklist to see if your child could have the symptoms of sleep apnea? This quiz will help you figure out if you need to be worried about sleep apnea for your child. Answer yes or no to the following questions:

  • Does your child snore loudly at night?
  • Is your child a mouth breather at night?
  • Does your child struggle to breathe at night or have moments where he or she does’nt appear to be breathing?
  • Does your child have enlarged adenoids/tonsils?
  • Does your child experience restless sleep?
  • Is your child excessively sleepy during the day?
  • Is your child experiencing weight loss and/or isn’t growing properly?
  • Does your child experience headaches in the morning?
  • Does your child experience behavior problems such as irritability, hyperactivity, or aggressive behavior?
  • Does your child have problems at school such as cognitive or learning difficulty or problems paying attention?

Answering yes to any of these questions doesn’t mean your child has sleep apnea, but it definitely means you should look into it, because he or she may indeed have it. If you suspect that sleep apnea may be a possibility, set up an appointment with your pediatrician or with a sleep specialist who can point you in the right direction. Once you know what you are dealing with, you’ll be better equipped to deal with it and help your child start getting good sleep again.

Treatment Options for Children with Sleep Apnea

There are many options for treatment that your doctor will discuss with you. The type of treatment recommended will be based on any number of things including the age of your child and the cause of the apnea. Some children simply need surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids, and this will completely cure the sleep apnea. Other children may have a deviated septum or other problem that needs surgery. And still other children will need to use a C-PAP machine to help them breathe properly at night.

Facing surgery for your child or the intimidating C-PAP machine may seem scary, but the reality is that for most children, the surgery is a simple outpatient procedure; nothing to worry too much about. And the machine, while it looks intimidating, is simple to use and does wonders for your child’s breathing. There are many options for treatment, so you don’t have to be locked into only one method of treatment. Because sleep apnea can stunt a child’s growth and cause behavioral and other problems, it really is worth it to seek treatment if apnea is something you suspect.

Sleep Apnea in Children is Not Always Obvious or Easy to Spot

If your child has sleeping problems or behavior problems during the day, it’s important to watch carefully to see if any of the symptoms of sleep apnea are present. If sleep apnea is the cause, you should definitely seek the help of a doctor so that the apnea can be treated. It’s always better to err on the side of caution – you want to be sure that your child gets proper rest in order to grow and develop properly.

About Holli Ronquillo

I'm a freelance writer, mom, wife, and sleep connoisseur (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not sleeping or chasing a toddler around, I'm usually writing or reading.