Quick Solutions for Treating Sleep Apnea in Children

Research suggests that between two and three percent of children suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, this figure could be as high as 20 percent when referring to children who snore on a regular basis.

While there is currently no cure for this condition, parents can still take several steps to help ensure that their little ones obtain the rest that they require to lead rewarding lives. Let's examine some tips and tricks.

Becoming Familiar with Common Symptoms of OSA

It is first important for parents to recognize some of the most common symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Here are some typical warning signs that professional advice may be warranted:

  • Excessive snoring
  • Children who wake up choking or coughing
  • Laziness or lethargy throughout the day
  • Dry mouth and/or a sore throat upon awakening
  • In some children, bed-wetting or night terrors

However, it should be mentioned that not all these symptoms may be present. Some children might only complain of broken sleeping patterns. This is why parents should remain vigilant and contact a specialist if they suspect that a problem exists. 

What Might Cause Sleep Apnea in Children?

It is interesting to mention that the causes of OSA in children often differ when compared to those associated with adults. For instance, obesity is not diagnosed as frequently. Children could likewise suffer from conditions such as adenoids or enlarged tonsils; both easily treatable. 

Research also suggests that children of African descent may be at a slightly higher risk of developing sleep apnea. However, further studies need to be carried out. Some other variables that could increase the chances of being diagnosed with OSA include:

  • A family history
  • Pre-existing conditions such as cerebral palsy or Down's syndrome
  • An enlarged tongue
  • Abnormalities with the shape of the jaw or the skull

A sleep study may be necessary to diagnose the problem and determine the best route forward. 

Your Treatment Options

Parents will be happy to know that the science behind treating sleep apnea in children has come a long way over the past few decades. While some techniques are equally suitable for adults, others are specifically geared towards the younger generation. So, what are your options?

Lifestyle Modifications

If your child is overweight, it is crucial to enact lifestyle modifications sooner as opposed to later. Following a healthy diet, reducing his or her overall caloric intake, and getting plenty of exercise are three practical examples. 


Children often suffer from nasal congestion. Whether caused by an illness or a chronic condition, narrow airways make it much more difficult to obtain the amount of oxygen required by the body during the overnight hours. 

Physicians may therefore choose to prescribe nasal steroids. These will be inhaled, and the main purpose is to ensure that the nasal cavity remains open. Treatment periods will normally last for up to three months. The professional will thereafter determine if any progress has been made before recommending a different course of action (if needed). 


While surgery might initially sound quite extreme, it can often lead to a cure (assuming that the obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a physical abnormality). 

As mentioned previously, tonsils and adenoids can sometimes be the root cause of OSA. Simply removing these appendages will lead to enlarged airways; essentially ablating any of the previous symptoms. Your child will nonetheless need to satisfy several criteria before any type of invasive surgery is recommended. These include:

  • He or she is younger than seven
  • The child has not already been diagnosed with obesity
  • The tonsils are relatively small at the time of diagnosis
  • Moderate (as opposed to severe) sleep apnea is present

It is always wise to consult with your family physician to learn more about the options as well as what to expect from the surgeries themselves. 

A CPAP Machine

Adults often employ continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines in order to alleviate the symptoms of their sleep apnea. There are also instances when this very same approach can yield impressive results. 

A CPAP works by providing the user with air at a slightly higher pressure. Therefore, the airways are less likely to narrow or close completely while asleep. There are many different types to consider, and some offer additional features such as a built-in humidifier. 

It should still be mentioned that becoming acclimated to the presence of a CPAP can be challenging for both children and adults. Also, note that the use of a CPAP will not cure obstructive sleep apnea. The main intention is to alleviate the symptoms themselves. 

The good news is that children who become accustomed to a continuous positive airway pressure machine will be much more likely to use such a device into adulthood. In other words, embracing this habit at an early stage helps to ensure that a restful night of sleep is never far off. 

Taking a Proactive Stance

It is not uncommon for children to change their sleeping patterns. There are also plenty of times when it seems nearly impossible for them to remain quiet during the overnight hours. 

The main point here is that parents should be able to tell the difference between normal childhood behaviors and the possible presence of OSA. If they suspect that sleep apnea might be the culprit, they should always seek out medical advice to learn about the numerous potent solutions. 


  1. https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/pediatric-obstructive-sleep-apnea
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-apnea-in-children#symptoms
  3. https://www.forbes.com/health/weight-loss/obesity-statistics/
  4. https://jcsm.aasm.org/doi/10.5664/jcsm.6134