Back to School with a good night’s sleep

Tips for parents to recognize signs of childhood obstructive sleep apnoea

With the summer holiday period over, and school days upon us once again, 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 just having an early bedtime. Yet again the United States shows us the way.

 At the main Allergy Centre in Chicago, allergy, asthma, and immunology experts are helping parents recognize the signs of childhood obstructive sleep apnoea by carefully monitoring childhood snoring and childhood nasal allergies.

Many children snore from time to time, and this is quite normal, particularly if they have a cold or if they suffer from asthma. But as their highly specialized paediatric nasal congestion and sleep apnoea expert explains, “if your child is a restless sleeper who chronically snores and mouth breathes and shows signs of daytime difficulties, obstructive sleep apnoea could be the cause.” He also points out that the symptoms of sleep apnoea in kids can be much subtler than those found with adult sleep apnoea.

Sleep Apnoea In Children – What To Look For

Beyond restless nights, parents who suspect their child may have obstructive sleep apnoea are encouraged to watch for these warning signs that can begin as early as 2-6 years of age.

Night-time Sleep Apnoea Symptoms

  • Persistent snoring and mouth breathing
  • Gasping or laboured breathing
  • Frequent bedwetting beyond the normal age range
  • Night sweats
  • Unusual sleeping positions

Daytime Sleep Apnoea Symptoms

  • Allergies, asthma, or frequent ear infections
  • Poor school performance or trouble focusing on tasks
  • Behavioural or social problems
  • Bad mood or constant agitation
  • Depression or anxiety

Childhood Nasal Allergies and Asthma

One of the things that is highly common for children with sleep apnoea is to have other breathing issues. Some children are just persistent snorers and don’t necessarily have sleep apnoea but compounding issues, such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids, can elevate the problem to sleep apnoea.

Very few allergy and asthma experts give childhood sleep apnoea anything like the attention that it deserves. Even if your child is consistently getting between 10 and 12 hours of sleep each night, sleep apnoea can cause enough disruption to affect their mood, their school performance, and their  overall behaviour patterns. Studies in the USA have shown that middle school students and sixth formers with moderate to severe sleep apnoea achieve lower grades and have greater trouble on both focusing and on paying attention in class.

If you think your child suffers from sleep apnoea, the American specialists suggest a thorough exploration of all symptoms and physical factors that could contribute to breathing problems. Beyond monitoring your child’s tonsil and adenoid size, it is vital also to evaluate their soft palate and uvula, tongue, jaw positioning, and nasal passages and airways.

The American Dental and Medical Practices have long stated that addressing a child’s sleep issues early will not only improve their academic and social performance, but it will also position them for healthy adult sleep habits later – maybe even saving their life in more critical cases.

By John Redfern