Children and Sleep Apnea: Does Your Child Have it? - JUST BREATHE DDS

Did you know that bedwetting, ADD/ADHD, and mouth breathing while sleeping are ALL signs of your child having an underdeveloped mouth and jaw with a partially obstructed airway? This is also known as Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).  We will be discussing the signs and symptoms associated with children and sleep apnea.

Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder where a child’s breathing can be partially or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep. The condition results from the narrowing or blockage of the upper airway while asleep. Sleep apnea causes poor-quality sleep in both children and adults, but the daytime symptoms can differ. Children are more likely to show behaviors such as hyperactivity, difficulty with concentration and mood, while adults tend to exhibit excessive daytime sleepiness.

While most children have mild symptoms and may possibly outgrow the condition, OSA is estimated to affect up to 10% of children in the United States. Pediatric OSA is becoming a growing health concern with increasing rates of obesity and hyperactivity in children. Studies show that children diagnosed with hyperactivity or attention issues also had underlying OSA. Hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorders could be more effectively treated when the root cause or underlying OSA is properly treated instead of using stimulants to treat the ADHD.

Underlying Causes

There are many differences between the underlying causes for adult sleep apnea and pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. While the underlying cause for adults is often obesity, the most common underlying cause for children is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Obesity, craniofacial anomalies and neuromuscular disorders are also contributing factors for sleep apnea in children.

Adults with sleep apnea tend to wake up briefly after their breathing stops, also known as fragmented sleep. On the other hand, children will often sleep through pauses in their breathing due to a higher arousal threshold than adults so their sleep patterns remain normal. When it comes to Sleep apnea and children, early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing future complications with growth, behavior and cognitive development.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children

You will often see symptoms of sleep apnea appear within the first few years of your child’s life but can be present at any age. In addition, sleep apnea in children has a tendency to go undiagnosed for many years and can slow a child’s growth rate. Signs and symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea typically include the following:

  • Pauses in breathing
  • Snoring
  • Choking, snorting or coughing
  • Restless sleep
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Bed-wetting
  • Sleepwalking or sleep terrors 
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Mouth breathing

Children and Sleep Apnea

It is important to keep in mind that even though snoring is often an accompanying factor of sleep apnea, young children with sleep apnea do not always snore. They may just be experiencing disturbed sleep. Due to disturbed sleep, your child with sleep apnea may show the following problems:

  • Perform poorly in school
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Develop learning problems
  • Have a tough time waking up in the morning
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Show behavioral problems including irritability or aggression
  • Be hyperactive or have Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or show symptoms

Note: Children may have a difficult time expressing their feelings, which leads to a misdiagnosis of ADHD when in fact their problems could stem from a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is present in ⅓ of patients with ADHD.

Sleep Apnea Treatment For Children in Hayden, ID

To find out more about the issues with children and sleep apnea or underlying causes, contact Just Breathe DDS. We treat both the symptoms and causes associated with snoring, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, insomnia and other sleep breathing disorders. Our treatment is a short-term process, generally one year, with results that last a lifetime. For more information regarding our sleep treatment or to set up a free patient education meeting, please give us a call at (208) 500-3030. Get Help for your child’s sleep apnea today by calling Just Breathe DDS! 




Marcus, C. L., Brooks, L. J., Draper, K. A., Gozal, D., Halbower, A. C., Jones, J., Schechter, M. S., Ward, S. D., Sheldon, S. H., Shiffman, R. N., Lehmann, C., Spruyt, K., & American Academy of Pediatrics (2012). Diagnosis and management of childhood obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Pediatrics, 130(3), e714–e755.


Meltzer, L. J., Johnson, C., Crosette, J., Ramos, M., & Mindell, J. A. (2010). Prevalence of diagnosed sleep disorders in pediatric primary care practices. Pediatrics, 125(6), e1410–e1418.