Sleep Apnea

Also known as: sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, OSA

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing is blocked and interrupted for periods of 5 to 10 seconds or more while sleeping.

What is pediatric obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by repetitive periods of breathing cessation (apneas) or recurring incidences of shallow breathing during sleep.

What are the signs/symptoms?

  • Snoring or loud breathing during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • May awaken frequently throughout the night
  • Enuresis or bedwetting
  • Sleeping in odd positions or with their mouth open
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Frequent respiratory tract infections
  • Changes in personality or development

What causes sleep apnea in children?

The cause of sleep apnea in children is typically an enlargement of the tonsils and/or adenoids. Children with other disorders, such as craniofacial anomalies, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Down Syndrome are at an increased risk for sleep apnea.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed and treated?

At Nicklaus Children’s Sleep Disorders Center, pediatric sleep apnea is diagnosed through a sleep study. In most cases, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy in children with obstructive sleep apnea will correct the problem. Positive-pressure ventilation (CPAP) is an alternative to further surgery in children with unresolved obstructive sleep apnea after a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: January 28, 2021 01:59 PM

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