In this section
Obstructive sleep apnoea
(OSA) is a medical condition in which children have breathing
difficulties when they are asleep. When children (and adults)
fall asleep, their muscles relax. This can lead to a floppy
upper airway which can become either partly or totally blocked
by the adenoids and tonsils when the child is asleep. The parent may notice snoring and pauses in the child's breathing while the
child is sleeping. Snoring in children is quite
common - about 15 to 20 children in every 100 will snore. OSA is
less common - about two to three children in every 100.
OSA disrupts sleep. Children who have OSA
may feel tired in the day, may have problems with learning,
behavioural and/or medical problems.
Your childs doctor may suggest
your child has a 'sleep study', called a
'polysomnography'. This can confirm if they have
OSA. There is no pain, and no needles are involved in a sleep
study. A number of wires are stuck to the surface of the skin to measure
breathing, heart rate (pulse) and oxygen levels as well as brain, eye
and muscle activity. The child and a parent sleep overnight in
the sleep unit while these measurements are made.
Once the diagnosis has
been made, treatment depends on what is causing the problem and how
serious it is.
Children who have surgery
to remove their tonsils and adenoids may need to come back to the
sleep clinic after the surgery. This might be the case if their sleep
study before the surgery showed severe OSA or their symptoms do not
get better six to eight weeks after the surgery.
Although most children will
be cured by the surgery, a few may still snore or have difficulty
breathing when they are asleep. Parents should tell their sleep
physician (doctor) about these symptoms. The sleep physician
may need to arrange some more tests or treatment.
consultation with the Melbourne Childrens
Sleep Unit, Royal Children's Hospital (RCH). Many thanks to the
parents who helped with this factsheet. First published 2005.
Updated November 2010.