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It’s Not Just Bedwetting: The Dangers of Sleep Apnea in Children

For some children, bedwetting is part of growing up. For others, it’s a sign of a deeper issue: sleep apnea.

That bedwetting might be more than “just a phase”.

Bedwetting affects just shy of 1 in 5 kids between the ages of 4 and 12, so it’s not uncommon. If your child wets the bed, it isn’t the end of the world.

But while it isn’t time to hit the panic button, it is time to pay closer attention to your child’s behavior, because that bedwetting could be telling you that your child’s long-term health is at the mercy of a real nighttime bogeyman called sleep apnea.

bed wetting top view illustration

What does sleep apnea have to do with bedwetting?

Let’s start by understanding what sleep apnea (also called sleep-disordered breathing) actually is. When a person has sleep apnea, their breathing is repeatedly disrupted while they’re asleep, preventing them from getting the oxygen it needs.

To the body, that’s a serious situation – and it acts accordingly. It starts to prioritize bodily functions related to breathing, even if that means giving up bladder control. Once that happens…well, it’s a situation that nobody is happy with, to put it gently.

Sleep apnea has serious long-term health effects.

While the disorder can affect anyone, from infants to adults, it has a bigger impact on children because their bodies and minds are still developing.

The Physical Health Impact
The Mental Health Impact

What causes sleep apnea in children?

For children, sleep apnea is often caused by issues in the mouth or sinuses that are preventing proper breathing. If your child is overweight, or your family has a history with the condition, those factors can also increase your child’s likelihood of having sleep apnea as well.

Besides bedwetting, what other signs should I look for?

icon regular night swating
Regular Night Sweating

When the body is deprived of oxygen, it may release a stress hormone to restart breathing, which can also cause sweating.

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Learning or Behavior Issues

Since it disrupts proper rest, sleep apnea can cause your child to be irritable or have trouble focusing at school.

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Overnight Restlessness

Breathing difficulties can make it challenging for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

icon nightmares
Nightmares

The lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnea can trigger your child’s fight-or-flight response, causing them to have nightmares.

icon mouth breathing bad breath
Mouth Breathing & Bad Breath

Mouth breathing may be directly visible, or noticeable from bad breath caused airflow drying out your child’s mouth.

icon frequent illness
Frequent Illness

Recurring ear infections, acid reflux, or colds can indicate that sleep apnea is disrupting your child’s proper body functions.

girl yawning bed sun illustration

I think my child has sleep apnea. What should I do?

Talk to a doctor or a dentist. They’ll be able to examine your child and provide you with an at-home polysomnography test – a sleep study, for short – that assesses your child’s nighttime oxygen levels and breathing patterns.

Entrust Your Oral Health To Dr. Jessica Lawson

Recognized across Des Moines for her compassionate, holistic approach and unwavering patient commitment, every treatment performed by Dr. Lawson is guided by over a decade of experience and specialized training.

Noticed signs of sleep apnea in your child?

Get a complimentary consultation and in-home sleep study.

How is sleep apnea treated in children?

If your child has sleep apnea, their treatment will depend on the root cause behind their disrupted breathing.

For temporary causes of sleep apnea, like allergies or inflammation, medications can help, but if your child’s sleep apnea is being caused by their facial or oral structures, then they’ll most likely need to receive surgery or wear a corrective appliance.

Myofunctional therapy: A safe, nonsurgical solution

My philosophy as a dentist and caregiver is to always look for solutions that a) deliver healthy results with the least amount of surgery or medication, and b) support full body health along with oral health.

Myofunctional therapy checks both of those boxes.

It works by using a mouthpiece-like appliance to correct the positioning of the tongue and jaw muscles. Worn nightly, it gently opens up the airways and allows for proper breathing.

Gradually, over the course of about two years, it can permanently correct your child’s breathing and reduce or eliminate their sleep apnea.

In my experience, myofunctional therapy is a great first option because:
  • It’s non-surgical and has a lower risk of complications
  • It based on a natural, medicine-free approach
  • It’s worn overnight and doesn’t disrupt your child’s routine
  • It can reduce the need for orthodontics later on

The dentist’s view.

There’s an old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and it’s one that I’ve always felt really applies to treating sleep apnea in children.

As a mom with four kids of my own, and as a dentist who’s helped assess and treat sleep apnea in countless children, I believe it just makes so much sense to be cautious and proactive about your child’s health.

Compared to the serious, lasting issues that sleep apnea can cause, having your child receive an assessment and sleep test takes so little effort. And even if they do need treatment, you’ll know that you’re doing the right thing to support their lifelong health.

Don’t sleep on sleep apnea.

For a dry bed – and a healthier future

You can help your child sleep better. No more bedwetting, nightmares, or cranky mornings. Just a good night’s rest and the energy they need to learn, grow, and face the day with a positive attitude.

All it takes is a consultation and sleep test, and if you’re looking for a dentist who’s experienced in treating sleep apnea in children, I’m always ready to help.

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.

Uncover the brilliance in your smile.

Schedule an appointment today and discover Urbandale’s premier dental care experience.

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  • Healthy Start Patient Form

  • Sleep Disordered Breathing Questionnaire for Children

    The initial column should be filled out at first appointment. Please identify the following symptoms your child exhibits with the scale indicating severity of symptoms.

    Not Present: 0
    Mild: 1-2
    Moderate: 3
    Pronounced: 4-5
  • Does your child:

  • (If yes, fill out speech questionnaire below)
  • Speech Questionnaire

    To be filled out only if #27 was indicated above
  • Please check all that apply to your child

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