With school days upon us, a good night's sleep should be on the top of each child's list of supplies. But for some children, getting the rest they need means more than an early bedtime. At Clarity Allergy Center in Chicago, allergy, asthma, and immunology expert, Dr. Brian Rotskoff, is helping parents recognize the signs of childhood obstructive sleep apnea by carefully monitoring childhood snoring and childhood nasal allergies.
Many children snore from time to time, particularly if they have a cold or asthma. But as Dr. Rotskoff, a highly specialized pediatric nasal congestion and sleep apnea expert explains, "if your child is a restless sleeper who chronically snores and mouth breaths and shows signs of daytime difficulties, obstructive sleep apnea could be the cause." He also points out that the symptoms of sleep apnea in kids can be subtler than those of adult sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea In Children – What To Look For
Beyond restless nights, Dr. Rotskoff encourages parents who suspect their child may have obstructive sleep apnea to watch for these warning signs that can begin as early as 2-6 years of age.
Nighttime Sleep Apnea Symptoms
- Persistent snoring and mouth breathing
- Gasping or labored breathing
- Frequent bedwetting beyond normal age range
- Night sweats
- Unusual sleeping positions
Daytime Sleep Apnea Symptoms
- Allergies, asthma, or frequent ear infections
- Poor school performance or trouble focusing on tasks
- Behavioral or social problems
- Bad mood or constant agitation
- Depression or anxiety
Childhood Nasal Allergies and Asthma
It's highly common for children with sleep apnea to have other breathing issues. "Some children are just persistent snorers and don't necessarily have sleep apnea," acknowledges Dr. Rotskoff, "but compounding issues, such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids, can elevate to sleep apnea."
Dr. Rotskoff is one of few allergy and asthma experts to give childhood sleep apnea the attention it deserves. Even if your child is getting 10-12 hours of sleep each night, sleep apnea can cause enough disruption to affect mood, school performance, and overall behavior. "Studies show that middle school and high school kids with moderate to severe sleep apnea achieve lower grades and have greater trouble focusing or paying attention in class," he says.
If you think your child suffers from sleep apnea, Dr. Rotskoff suggests a thorough exploration of all symptoms and physical factors that could contribute to breathing problems. Beyond monitoring your child's tonsil and adenoid size, Dr. Rotskoff will evaluate their soft palate and uvula, tongue, jaw positioning, and nasal passages and airways. He works closely with parents to determine the most conservative and effective treatment.
"Addressing your child's sleep issues early will not only improve academic and social performance, it will also position them for healthy adult sleep habits," concludes Dr. Rotskoff.