The Risk of Sleep Apnea for Your Child is Real
Your daughter has been distracted and has trouble paying attention in class. She is irritable and snaps at people, and has trouble remembering things. You know she goes to bed at a reasonable hour, but somehow she always wakes up looking like she hasn’t closed her eyes in days and complains of still being tired. Once or twice, her teachers have reported her nodding off in the middle of class. She’s been eating a lot more than she used to, and she’s starting gain some weight.
Many people brush these worrying signs away, thinking they are normal behaviors associated with growing up. Teenagers are supposed to be moody, hungry, tired, and forgetful, aren’t they? The truth is, these could all be indications of a serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea.
Many people who are familiar with obstructive sleep apnea know if can make you stop breathing in your sleep as your airway becomes blocked. This is often, but not always, accompanied by snoring loud snoring, which is one of the most obvious indicators of this sleep related disorder. While not breathing is a problem by itself, it is the effects of a poor night’s sleep and low blood-oxygen levels that can greatly affect the quality of life for a sufferer.
Repeatedly awakening interrupts the sleep cycle, so that the body’s natural repair and maintenance routines are interrupted. The trouble is, many times the brief awakenings are so short that they aren’t remembered, or the person suffering doesn’t realize why they are awake. “I must need to go to the bathroom,” they think, or, “Must have been a bad dream.” Come the morning, they will not have experienced the benefits of a good night’s rest without any idea this has happened.
Not sleeping properly leads to the moodiness and irritability that is so often attributed to being a teenager. It can also cause memory problems and inattentiveness. For some teens, this effect is so prevalent that it is mistaken for some form of ADHD. Because appetite regulating chemicals like leptin are only produced during deep sleep, the appetite can be greatly increased. Coupled with low energy from the lack of sleep, the sufferer can quickly pack on the pounds.
With many health issues, the sufferer has some indication that something is wrong. Since sleep apnea is completely invisible during the day, many people do not know they have it. So how is it diagnosed?
Most of the time, it is only diagnosed because a loved one, like a parent, brings up the issue. While a dentist can treat the issue, and may even be able to see what is causing the airway to become blocked during sleep once suspicions are aroused, it is unlikely that they’ll discover the problem on their own. It is important to bring up anything unusual, even if you think it is unrelated, during your child’s visit to the office.
Luckily, treating sleep apnea is often a cheap and simple. Dr. Brodsky can fabricate a simple oral appliance to hold the airway open throughout the night, giving your teen the good night’s rest that is so vital during this period of development. Not only is this an economical option, but both comfortable and quiet. There’s no need for loud and cumbersome CPAP machines, and in most cases surgery is not necessary.
If your child is starting to behave strangely, don’t ignore the signs. Ask Dr. Brodsky about sleep apnea to begin a proper diagnosis and treatment for this serious condition.