Pediatric sleep-disordered breathing is a condition in which your child stops breathing while asleep. This can range from minor disruptions that are mostly harmless to life-threatening. Breathing disruptions can cause extreme fatigue, leading to a whole host of other health, growth, and behavioral problems. Being an informed parent is imperative to your child’s health, quality of life, and future well-being. Don’t let your child fight to breathe every night. Learn about pediatric sleep-disordered breathing and save your child’s future.

What Do Breathing Disruptions Look Like?

A child’s breathing disruption looks similar to adult breathing disruptions. It might produce itself as snoring. While snoring in children can be cute, you shouldn’t take snoring lightly. Many doctors see snoring as the first step in a continuum that leads to obstructive sleep apnea in kids. Children snore because soft tissues in their throat are partially blocking their airway. The sound you hear is the tissues vibrating as air is rushing past. A sleep disruption could also be coughing, choking, or gasping for breath in their sleep. Finally, sleep disruptions could be an all-out stoppage of breathing. These pauses can last anywhere from 8 seconds or longer.

Why Is My Child Having Trouble Breathing?

little girl peacefully sleeping in her bed, cuddling with her stuffed animal
Children can have trouble breathing at night for a host of different reasons. To make sense of it, let’s first look at the different types of pediatric sleep-disordered breathing.

Snoring: As mentioned, snoring is when the soft tissues in your child’s throat sag and vibrate due to air rushing past. Snoring is harmless mainly unless it progresses.

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS): Similar to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, this syndrome is also characterized by the sagging of soft tissue that partially blocks your child’s airway. While snoring doesn’t cause daytime sleepiness, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome does, but the blockage is not enough to be meet sleep apnea criteria.

Obstructive Hypopnea: This is the third stage before obstructive sleep apnea criteria are met. Obstructive Hypopnea is similar to UARS but more severe.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most severe case of pediatric sleep-disordered breathing. Soft tissues can become looser yet, blocking or completely obstructing your child’s airway. When this happens, your child’s brain will alert the body to begin breathing and wake them up. They may not notice these awakenings, but they disrupt the sleep cycle and have dangerous consequences.

Central Sleep Apnea: Thankfully, Central sleep apnea is much less common than obstructive sleep apnea. When your child has central sleep apnea, their brain doesn’t tell their lungs to breathe. Cases of central sleep apnea are more prevalent in premature babies, babies with brain injuries, or children who have brain malformations.

So, what are the soft tissues that aren’t allowing your child to breathe, and why? Well, it could be the tongue, enlarged tonsils, enlarged adenoids, or fat deposits on the neck. Your child could also have a small airway due to the jaw’s position, which makes these tissues too large to fit.

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With Pediatric Sleep-Disordered Breathing?

Pediatric sleep-disordered breathing has many dangers that any parent would want to avoid. The immediate consequences are

  • Behavioral problems
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Learning difficulties
  • Low mood and depression

Just as in adults, the constant disruptions in your child’s sleep cycle don’t allow their body and brain to repair cells, produce proteins, and store memories. One of the things parents usually notice early on is behavioral problems. Not only is your child dead-tired, but their brains are keeping them from learning the correct way to behave. Eventually, this can lead to depression. Your child wants to do the right thing and excel in learning but simply can not. Read the list of long-term consequences below.

  • Dental problems
  • Failure to thrive
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Heart problems
  • Premature death

These long-term problems can be challenging to detect because they develop over time and when you are with your child day-in and day-out, subtle changes can be hard to see. To ensure your child stays healthy, look for the more identifiable signs here.

I Think My Child May Be At Risk

If you are worried that your child may be at risk for pediatric sleep-disordered breathing, it’s best to see a professional right away. Through ASAP Pathway, you can find a pediatric sleep dentist who can treat your child’s breathing and help them to live a long and happy life. Your sleep dentist will customize a plan specifically for your child and the severity of their condition. They’ll also keep in mind your child’s adaptability and acceptance of the treatment and your budget. In the end, they’ll recommend the best treatment for you and your child. Treatment options could be CPAP, appliance therapy, myofunctional therapy, orthodontics, or orthopedics.

Your pediatric sleep dentist might suggest surgery in some cases, but that isn’t the norm. Our certified ASAP Pathway dentists will always choose the least invasive treatment possible that will still treat your child’s condition effectively. If you think your child might be at risk, take this short assessment to find out if you should contact a pediatric sleep dentist today.

I Don’t Think My Child Is At Risk

If you don’t think your child is at risk, that is wonderful! We are thrilled to hear that you have a happy and healthy child. Keep this information in the back of your mind and share it with others in case their child might be at risk for pediatric sleep-disordered breathing. As parents, we need to band together to keep our children healthy and safe.

Get Treatment Because Children Can’t Wait

Don’t wait to get treatment if you suspect that your child might be in danger of pediatric sleep-disordered breathing. Take a look at ASAP Pathway’s provider map and find a certified pediatric sleep dentist in your area.