What Is Sleep Apnea And How To Tackle It In Toddlers?

Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is characterized by irregular and abnormal breathing while an individual is asleep.

Is sleep apnea in toddler dangerous? Considering that it occurs only during sleep, ruling out the possibility that it is not serious is wrong.

While this condition is commonly observed in adults, toddlers are also prone to abnormal sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is most common between the ages of 3 and 6, when tonsils and adenoids are at their largest compared with child-size airways.

Sleep Apnea In Toddlers – Types And Causes:

Abnormal sleep apnea can cause a decrease in the oxygen levels in your toddler. The loss of oxygen, as a result, disrupts sleep in your darling. Other problems like Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, receding chin and obesity can also cause this chronic condition in toddlers.

There are three different causes of sleep apnea in toddlers. Check them out:

a. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea in toddlers is most common condition, this type is caused due to obstruction in the airways.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to some physical obstruction in respiratory passage, which does not allow proper oxygen into the lungs.
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids (naturally or due to infection / allergies) are the common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children.
  • Sleeping on the side is also thought to benefit toddlers affected by obstructive sleep apnea.

[ Read: Toddler Sleep ]

b. Central Sleep Apnea:

When the specific part of the brain, associated with navigating the breathing process, doesn’t work properly, it causes interruptions during sleep. This is categorized as central sleep apnea.

  • Central sleep apnea is more commonly found in adults, but now is common in toddlers as well.
  • It is thought to arise due to pre-existing health conditions such as congestive heart failure and stroke.

c. Mixed Apnea:

This is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. It may occur when your toddler is asleep or awake.

Treatment Options:

If you suspect that your child is suffering from sleep apnea, it’s better to consult a doctor immediately. Prolonged pauses in breathing can be dangerous, and may even halt or adversely affect your toddler’s development and growth. After carefully monitoring your child, the doctor may come up with some possible treatment approaches depending on the exact cause.

  • If your child is affected by sleep apnea due to obesity and abnormal weight gain, proper diet and certain lifestyle changes that include exercise will be suggested.
  • If your child has mild sleep apnea, your doctor may suggest using a mouthpiece or an oral appliance. This device helps keep the airway open while sleeping, and promotes free flow of oxygen into body.
  • The doctor may also suggest some throat exercises to strengthen the muscles in the airway and make them less likely to collapse.
  • If your kid is affected by sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils or adenoids, getting them removed surgically is one of the best treatment options.

[ Read: Night Terror In Babies ]

Apnea Of Infancy:

A lot of times, sleep apnea symptoms in toddlers go away as they grow. This type is known as apnea of infancy, and it occurs if your infant’s respiratory system is not well developed.

Your doctor is the best person to detect this problem in your child. If he suspects that, he may suggest some simple tips and tricks to bring temporary relief from the symptoms. The use of nasal strips, saline sprays or breathing strips may be recommended to keep your child’s nasal passages open during sleep.

Keep an eye on your child’s breathing problems and don’t hesitate to visit your doctor if you do find any such situations.

We hope this article helps you understand the basics of sleep apnea in toddlers and curb as soon as possible. Also we would like to know your experiences.

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