OSA in children

Sleep disorders, children, and behavior

If your child has a behavior or learning problem, his or her doctor could consider a sleep disorder.

The number of kids diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been skyrocketing.  Frustrated parents may turn to physicians for solutions to their children’s behavior and learning challenges. For some children, physicians prescribe stimulant drugs.  For other children, a fundamental and long-term solution lays in the treatment of sleep disorders. 

As in adults, children who have trouble sleeping or find themselves falling asleep during the day may have a sleep disorder.   Unlike adults, some children with sleep disorders may be not sleepy but hyperactive.  In particular, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children increases hyperactivity and impairs attention.  In OSA, the airway collapses repeatedly and blocks breathing intermittently throughout the night.   There are several risk factors for sleep apnea in children:  snoring, obesity, prematurity, nasal congestion, high blood pressure, genetic syndromes, craniofacial abnormalities, and neurological disorders.

Treatment of sleep apnea in children may be complicated.  A pediatric sleep specialist- which we can provide at Sleep HealthCenters- can evaluate the child and may request a “sleep study,” an overnight assessment of several body functions including breathing.  If a sleep study shows OSA, then an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician may evaluate your child’s throat.  If the ENT removes the tonsils, a second sleep study can confirm the resolution of OSA.   In children with sleep apnea and ADD/ADHD, OSA treatment may improve learning and behavior.