Sleep is a vital component of a child's physical and mental development, but what happens when a child's sleep is disrupted? Pediatric sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing (SDB), characterized by disruptions in breathing during sleep, can have serious consequences that impact a child's physical, emotional, and academic development. From stunted growth and poor jaw development to behavior problems and reduced cognitive function, pediatric sleep apnea is a growing concern for parents and healthcare professionals alike.  So, let's dive deeper into the world of pediatric sleep apnea and explore how it can affect your child's health and well-being.

Sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) are conditions that can affect children as well as adults. In children, these conditions are often caused by many factors such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, small jaws, restricted tongues, or long soft palates all of which can obstruct the airway and disrupt breathing during sleep. When breathing is disrupted, the child may snore, gasp, or even stop breathing briefly during sleep. This can lead to a lack of oxygen in the body, which can have a range of negative effects. Sleep apnea requires an official diagnosis from a certified sleep study so we are going to focus on SDB for this post.

One of the consequences of SDB in children is attention deficit disorder (ADD). Children with these conditions may have trouble paying attention in school, completing tasks, or following instructions. This is because a lack of oxygen during sleep can lead to fragmented or disrupted sleep, causing the child to feel sleepy and have difficulty focusing during the day. In some cases, treatment of sleep apnea or SDB can lead to improvement in ADD symptoms.

Reduced growth hormone is another possible consequence of SDB in children. Growth hormone is normally released during deep sleep, so disrupted sleep can result in lower levels of this hormone and slower growth. Children with sleep apnea or SDB may have a lower-than-expected height or weight for their age, and may be slower to develop physically.

In addition to physical development, sleep SDB can also affect the development of the jaw and face. When breathing is disrupted during sleep, the child may be forced to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose. This can cause changes in the shape of the face and mouth, including a narrow upper jaw and a recessed chin. Over time, these changes can contribute to problems with speech, swallowing, and dental health.

Lack of oxygen can also cause behavior problems in children. Children with SDB may be irritable, hyperactive, and aggressive. They may have trouble regulating their emotions, leading to outbursts or meltdowns. In some cases, behavior problems may be misdiagnosed as ADHD or other behavioral disorders, when the underlying cause is actually sleep-disordered breathing.

Finally, poor academic performance is another possible consequence of SDB in children. Sleep is crucial for learning and memory consolidation, so disrupted sleep can lead to difficulty with concentration, memory, and other cognitive tasks. Children with these conditions may have trouble keeping up with their peers in school, and may struggle with reading, writing, and math.

In conclusion, sleep-disordered breathing in children can have a range of negative effects on their physical, behavioral, and cognitive development. These effects can include attention deficit disorder, reduced growth hormone, poor jaw development, behavior problems, poor academic performance, and more. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to minimize these effects and promote healthy development. Contact us anytime at Juniper Dental (link) if you are interested in learning more or would like to book a complimentary pediatric assessment for your child.  Juniper Dental is located in the Southeast of Calgary in the new Seton Crossing Complex off of the Deerfoot surrounded by Cranston, Riverstone, Auburn Bay, Mahogany, Heritage Pointe and Artesia.

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