Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where a person’s breathing is interrupted or paused. For the person having this disorder, breathing is usually irregular and labored. The pauses can be as short as a few seconds or longer, which is very disturbing to the person having the disorder. It can also cause daytime sleepiness.
Because of the effects on sleepiness and daytime functioning, sleep apnea is becoming increasingly recognized as a sleep disorder in children. In the US alone, someone million children have this condition.
There are several different types of this disorder. Some are:
Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is a chronic disorder where the person is breathing with difficulty throughout the night. If not treated, the person with this condition could face long-term complications including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and many other types of illnesses. They also are at a higher risk for developing speech impediments and developmental delays.
Moderate Sleep Apnea: This is when the person breathes frequently during the night, but the person only needs to breathe for a few seconds. A second pause between breaths is normal. The person is still able to breathe normally.
Mild Sleep Apnea: This is not considered to be a serious sleep disorder but the person may find that it causes daytime drowsiness and they are not as alert as they should be. It is still considered to be more of a health issue than a sleep disorder.
There are many options available to help treat sleep apnea. One option is a CPAP machine or continuous positive airway pressure machine. This machine forces the air into the throat via a mask that fits over the nose and mouth.
These machines are worn continuously, although they can be adjusted to go off after fifteen minutes. They will, however, continue to work after that point because the pressure continues to force the air down the nasal passage.
These devices are known to be quite effective because they can actually cause the wearer to breathe with the constant pressure. The result is the slowed breathing pattern that is characteristic of sleep apnea. However, these devices also have drawbacks.
They also are known to irritate the nasal passages. Because of this, some people may not find them comfortable. However, the masks also cost quite a bit, and this is why they are often used for hospital purposes where they have to be worn for long periods of time.
If you suspect that your child has this problem, then there are several treatment options available. You can try using the CPAP machine or try a different type of device such as an Nd: YAG humidifier. Your doctor can advise you on which option is best for your child.