Is bedtime a struggle for your child because of restlessness or bedwetting? Are they frequently cranky or sick for seemingly no reason? Take note – those might be signs of a condition called sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea has several warning signs, some of which are less common than others. Along with the symptoms mentioned above, sleep apnea can affect everything from your child’s performance in school to their interpersonal relationships, as well as their moods and underlying behavior.
It’s a problem that can fly under the radar for years, and more parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms. Take our in-depth quiz to help determine whether sleep apnea could be the cause of your child’s health, behavior, or sleep difficulties.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea, also known as sleep-disordered breathing, is characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing patterns during deep periods of rest. It often appears as loud snoring, or long pauses and abrupt breathing. These patterns of nocturnal disordered breathing can lead to a lack of proper sleep and other more serious health problems for your child.
It is best to catch sleep apnea early, ideally in childhood. This is because the sooner a patient is diagnosed and properly treated for sleep apnea, the lower the chances are of experiencing long-term side effects.
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions, there is a high chance that your child has sleep apnea. At this stage, it is important to take your child in for further medical testing in order to narrow down and diagnose the type of sleep apnea they suffer from.
Sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated based on the symptoms alone, but in some cases, Doctors may require overnight monitoring. Sleep apnea is frequently diagnosed with what’s called nocturnal polysomnography. In this test, a patient must spend one or several nights in a sleeping center where their lung and brain activity is measured to detect irregular breathing. The heart is also monitored and blood oxygen levels are tested in order to determine whether or not the patient gets adequate air intake while sleeping.
If this sounds daunting, similar tests can be done at home. At home sleep apnea tests measure the heart, lung and brain activity during sleep, from the comfort of your own home. This is an excellent way to help your child feel more comfortable and get a more accurate read on their sleeping patterns. The devices used for at-home sleep apnea diagnostics are portable and convenient, especially for young patients who may not be able to sleep properly in a sleep center.
At Lawson Family Dentistry, we offer at-home sleep apnea tests to help you and your child identify sleep apnea in the comfort and safety of your own home. Once sleep apnea is confirmed, I’ll create a treatment plan specific to your child’s needs.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three key types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something physically obstructs the airway while sleeping. This can happen in the case of obesity when fatty tissue builds up and impedes upon the upper airway. It can also be seen in patients with inflamed tonsils as well as patients with jaw misalignment and orthodontic problems.
Central sleep apnea can occur in anyone and it is not caused by an obstruction in the airway. Rather, central sleep apnea occurs when a patient has disrupted and irregular breathing patterns. This happens when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles and lungs to facilitate proper air intake and breathing. There are a variety of underlying conditions that can contribute to this but central sleep apnea is certainly less common than obstructive sleep apnea.
Lastly, complex sleep apnea is best described as a combination of both complex and obstructive sleep apnea.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
The approach to sleep apnea treatment depends on which type of sleep apnea your child has. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive and fortunately, this can be identified though take home sleep tests.
If your child has tested positive for obstructive sleep apnea, that’s when I’ll sit down with you to work on a specialized treatment plan. If necessary, I’ll coordinate with your family doctor and any other necessary specialists to determine the appropriate treatment recommendations.
Often patients with obstructive sleep apnea are treated effectively with myofunctional therapy. With this treatment a small, custom made appliance which fits over your teeth (mouthpiece) is worn during sleep. It helps to continually support the jaw and keep airways open.
For children, we can use Myobrace and Healthy Start appliances to treat and correct obstructive sleep apnea and its underlying causes.
Visit Lawson Family Dentistry
Working with children and seeing how sleep apnea treatment improves their lives is one of the most rewarding parts of my role as a dentist and caregiver.
Preventative therapy like Myobrace and Healthy Start can greatly improve your child’s sleep and, as well as the underlying orthodontic causes of sleep apnea. If you’re ready to protect your child’s health, take the first step and contact our dental office in Urbandale, IA.