When an adult suffers from sleep apnea, it's often easy to spot the typical symptoms, like daytime fatigue, snoring, and wake-up headaches. While sleep apnea is rarer in children, it can still occur. The symptoms might not be as obvious, but if your child has sleep apnea, treatment can help them get back to normal sleep habits.
Here are the signs parents should look for:
1. Grinding teeth.
Sleep can cause the muscles in the mouth, neck, lungs, and diaphragm to become tense. This tension can be expressed by night-time grinding of the teeth. This is concerning not just because of the muscle trouble, but also because grinding can lead to gum recession and tooth damage. Grinding may also accompany general restlessness without waking.
Talk to your dentist if your child develops a nighttime grinding habit.
2. Pillow Drool
Many people with sleep apnea are unable to sleep without their mouth open. For kids, this means more drool. If the child sleeps on their back, the problem could be so bad that the saliva pools in the back of the mouth, leading to choking or coughing. If you notice stains on the pillowcase from what seems like a large amount of lost saliva, you can start to suspect sleep apnea, especially if other symptoms are present.
Because of the heightened stress on the body, you child may also sweat profusely at night. Their thirst for replacement fluids will be voracious on waking.
3. Trouble concentrating.
Your child may not seem exhausted during the day, but fatigue manifests differently in children. Your child may have plenty of energy to play, but may also show signs of fatigue, especially in concentration. School performance often suffers, and your child will have less patience for books or even movies.
Similarly, the fatigue can lead to hyperactivity or irritability at school and at home, which only increases the concentration problem. Before suspecting your child has a learning problem, try to make sure you carefully assess sleep patterns.
4. Absences of breath and snoring.
The effects of sleep apnea will cause your child to breathe differently than usual. Snoring is a common symptom, but sleep apnea can exist in children even when snoring is not present. Take several minutes to sit in your child's room while they are sleeping. Pauses, little gasps, or large draws of breath instead of a consistent, deep pattern are indicative of apnea.
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