Sleep apnea is recognized as a common condition among overweight children. If your child has sleep apnea, he stops breathing for a period of 10 to 20 seconds during sleep. The interruption of breathing may extend up to 2 minutes. This episode may occur hundreds of times in a single night.
Sleep apnea can be caused by complete obstruction of airway or partial obstruction. Therefore obstructive sleep apnea is defined as obstruction of airway during sleep. Due to the obstruction of airway, your child's sleep gets interrupted. As the sleep is interrupted, your child may feel drowsy during the daytime. This also results in tiredness, headaches, loss of memory, lack of energy and depression.
If your child is a normal weight child, he may have tonsils and adenoids which can be cured with surgery. If you child is overweight, the excess fat may narrow the airway. Excess body fat on the neck and chest constricts the air-passageways and sometimes the lungs.
Obesity, mainly abdominal and upper body obesity, is the most significant risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Thus morbid or malignant obesity carries a greater risk.
If your child lies down, the throat muscles relax, the tongue falls back and the airway gets obstructed. Due to the obstructed airway, the oxygen cannot be pumped to various parts of the body. Therefore oxygen levels drop, and your child arouses from sleep to breathe and the cycle begins again. Your child might experience snoring which is the result of sleep apnea.
Snoring results from the vibration of excess tissue - whether it's fat, large natural anatomy or both - as the child breathes in.
Here are the signs and symptoms so that you can identify that your child is suffering from sleep apnea.
1. Interruption of breathing during sleep. Your child may gasp for breathing when breathing is interrupted.
2. Loud snoring or noisy breathing during sleep. As a parent of your child, you can find if they snore; your child may make all types of strange noises when he is sleeping. But snoring is less common in children.
3. Your child may be having a restless sleep. If your child is having sleep apnea, he is not going to get a good night sleep, as may not be able to breath properly while sleeping.
4. Breathing through the mouth, rather than through the nose.
5. Excessive tiredness or daytime sleepiness during the day.
6. With the inability to breath properly, your child may have difficulty in paying attention and difficulty in concentrating.
7. Your child may be having tonsils and adenoids.
Your child may sleep with his mouth open. You can see his chest retract as he gasps for air, and he sometimes sleep in strange positions. Your child may show signs of depression or outward signs of confusion because he may be generally tired, from lack of sleep. Your child may also show signs of behavior changes as he is not getting the sleep needed.
Due to the presence of some, or indeed many, of these signs does not necessarily mean that your child is suffering from sleep apnea, but it would be better to consult a specialist if he is facing with any of these symptoms.
Today, sleep apnea is being widely recognized as a common disorder amongst children of all ages, and particularly amongst children between the ages of about three and six. Estimates vary, but in the United States alone, the number of children suffering from sleep apnea is put at between one and a half and two million.
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Nishanth Reddy is an author and publisher of many health related websites. For more information about sleep apnea visit: Sleep Apnea Guide
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