Disrupted Breathing Sleep Disorder  

Pediatric sleep apnea – also known as obstructive sleep apnea – is a sleep disorder caused by disrupted breathing. In some children, their breathing during sleep can become completely blocked, causing repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night. The lack of restful sleep can cause irritability and behavioral issues at home and school.

Our pediatric sleep disorder experts at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital are here to help. Early intervention can help avoid growth and cognitive development issues by getting your child the restorative rest they need.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea can include:

  • Bedwetting
  • Brief periods of paused breathing
  • Choking
  • Coughing
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Mouth breathing
  • Nightmares or sleep terrors
  • Restless sleep
  • Snorting

Sleep apnea symptoms can have an impact on your child’s day-to-day activities. Your child may have difficulty concentrating in school, demonstrate behavioral problems or even exhibit hyperactivity during daytime hours. In infants and young children, sleep apnea can cause poor weight gain and failure to thrive.

If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, our experts will review your child’s medical history, perform a physical exam and order diagnostic tests to determine what is causing your child’s sleep issues. Diagnostic tests for pediatric sleep apnea can include:

  • Electrocardiogram: a painless test that uses electrodes (sensor patches) to measure the electrical impulses of your child’s heart to rule out heart conditions
  • Oximetry: a test that records your child’s oxygen levels while they sleep and can be done at home if a sleep study isn’t possible
  • Polysomnogram: an overnight sleep study using sensors to track your child’s brain activity, breathing, oxygen levels, heart rate and snoring

With the appropriate treatment, many children with sleep apnea outgrow this condition before adulthood.

Why Choose Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for Care

Customized, Multidisciplinary Care

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we know that your child getting safe and restorative sleep is one of your top priorities. It’s one of ours, too – which is why we offer your child customized, multidisciplinary sleep disorder care. We work closely with your child’s other doctors to provide a comprehensive approach to diagnosing their sleep apnea and together create a treatment plan that best fits your child’s needs.

Comprehensive Treatment Options

If your child is diagnosed with sleep apnea, there are several treatment options available. The experts at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital will work closely with you to determine the best path.

Treatment options for pediatric sleep apnea include:

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): also called positive airway pressure therapy, a CPAP is a small machine that blows air through an adjustable mask attached to your child’s face while they sleep, keeping their airway open. If your child needs a CPAP, our team will help ensure a proper mask fit and continue to adjust it as they grow older.
  • Medications: pediatric allergy medications and nose sprays to relieve mild sleep apnea
  • Oral appliances: a fitted and a removable dental mouthguard that helps reposition your child’s lower jaw and tongue during sleeping
  • Tonsils and adenoid removal: surgery that may help open your child’s airways, allowing for better nighttime breathing

Commitment to Research

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital frequently participates in clinical trials for medical conditions like pediatric sleep apnea. For more information on clinical trials at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, please visit StudyFinder.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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