Obstructive sleep apnoea in children

Obstructive sleep apnoea in children

Your quick guide to identifying the causes and symptoms of OSA

What is OSA?

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) involves short episodes when breathing stops or is reduced during the sleep. It happens when tongue and airway muscles become too relaxed during the sleep causing upper airway blockage as a result. OSA episodes last just a few seconds with the efforts to breathe continuing until breathing resumes (often accompanied by a jerk or gasp).

What can cause OSA in children?

While OSA can occur at all ages, in children it’s frequently caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Babies may suffer from OSA because of congenital abnormalities of nose, throat, or airways. OSA maybe connected to the shape of child’s skull or tongue size, as children with small or receding jaws or large tongues are more likely to develop OSA due to a higher chance of obstructed airways.In some cases, OSA may be caused by hay fever or long-term allergies. Obesity can also be a factor.

What are OSA symptoms?

Children suffering from OSA are especially likely to snore and may also experience problems with breathing during sleep, demonstrating in gasping, choking or snorting. Restless sleep, tossing and turning as well as significant sweating is also typical for kids impacted by OSA. After a sleepless night, children maystruggle to stay awake during the day, suffer from headaches and/or blocked nose, experience problems with swallowing and poor appetite, and become easily tired.

How does OSA impact children?

Problems caused by OSA aren’t limited to disturbed sleep at night. Children with OSA may face developmental, behavioural and medical problems. Infants and small children with OSA may be eating too little, experience problems putting on weight or face developmental delays. During the day children can be sleepy, easily distracted, and even aggressive, which may lead to problems with getting on well with others. Disturbed sleep routine may become a serious problem when children start school and need to concentrate in class, complete homework, and study.If not treated, OSA may lead to health issues, including high blood pressure and heart problems, both in childhood and later in life.

How can you diagnose and treat children with OSA?

OSA can be confirmed or ruled out during a sleep study which is a painless and non-invasive procedure. Most sleep studies for children involve overnight stay at a sleep clinic. After the diagnosis is made, prescribed treatment may involve Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, surgery (removal of adenoids and/or tonsils), medications, orthodontic treatment, and lifestyle changes, including weight loss. If your child is showing any of the above symptoms, they may suffer from OSA or other sleep disorders. Discuss their sleep issues with your GP or consult with a paediatric sleep specialist.


If your child is showing any of the above symptoms, they may suffer from OSA or other sleep disorders. Discuss their sleep issues with your GP or consult with a paediatric sleep specialist.

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