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Sleep apnea means that breathing stops for short periods during sleep. When your child stops breathing or has reduced airflow into the lungs during sleep, they don't sleep well and can be very tired during the day. The oxygen levels in the blood may go down, and carbon dioxide levels go up. This may lead to other problems, such as high blood pressure and heart problems.
Sleep apnea can range from mild to severe, based on how often breathing pauses during sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It most often occurs because your child's airways are blocked or partly blocked. Large tonsils or adenoids, or obesity, can cause this type.
Central sleep apnea is less common in children. It can occur in children who have a central nervous system problem, such as a brain tumour or epilepsy.
Some children have both types. That's called complex sleep apnea.
Children who have sleep apnea nearly always snore. But unlike adults with sleep apnea, they may not seem very sleepy during the day.
In children younger than 5, other symptoms include:
In children 5 years and older, other symptoms include:
In rare cases, sleep apnea in children can cause developmental delays and failure of the right side of the heart (cor pulmonale).
Most doctors follow these guidelines to diagnose sleep apnea in children.
Children have most of the same treatment options as adults.
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Adaptation Date: 3/19/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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