Identify the Signs of Sleep Disordered Breathing in a Child

It’s important to be able to identify the symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing in a child so they can be referred for diagnosis and treatment for sleep disorder breathing. Although some of the common symptoms occur at night and are usually observed by parents, others occur during the day. This means that anyone who works with children should be aware of the symptoms so they can talk to parents about the possible underlying—and treatable—cause of daytime issues.

If you identify these symptoms, you can contact a local ASAP Pathway dentist to start treatment.

Daytime Symptoms of Sleep Disordered Breathing

tired young girl asleep at her desk at school
During the day, parents and caregivers should watch for symptoms that are often related to sleep-disordered breathing, including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Poor memory or learning difficulties
  • Behavioral problems, including aggression
  • “Hyperactivity”—children might be diagnosed ADD/ADHD
  • Depression or low mood
  • Headaches
  • Slow growth
  • Obesity

If a caregiver sees several of these symptoms during the day, they should mention them to the parents, who should try to observe sleep-related symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing.

Nighttime Symptoms of Sleep Disordered Breathing

At night, children with sleep-disordered breathing might sometimes seem to sleep very peacefully. However, they will also show some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Snoring
  • Choking or gasping noises during sleep
  • Mouth breathing
  • Restless sleep
  • Stoppages in breathing
  • Wetting the bed or frequently getting up to use the bathroom
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Sleep terrors

If you observe some of these nighttime symptoms as well as some of the daytime symptoms, you should take: “Is My Child at Risk?” This will help you determine whether to talk to your doctor or an ASAP Pathway dentist about sleep-disordered breathing.

How Is Sleep Disordered Breathing Diagnosed?

Although questionnaires are commonly used to identify sleep problems in children, true diagnosis requires more specific information.

For children, as for adults, the gold standard of diagnosis is a sleep study with polysomnography (PSG). PSG measures many different aspects of a child’s sleep, including their oxygen levels, breathing rate, heart rate, and more. This gives detailed information about what exactly is happening during a child’s sleep, letting a sleep doctor diagnose the level of breathing problems with high accuracy.

However, it is not always possible to get children into a sleep lab for a full sleep study. Sometimes actigraphy is used to measure sleep problems. Actigraphy is basically a watch-like device similar to a Fitbit that the child wears at night. This doesn’t give the full story, but sometimes it gives enough information.

Other forms of home sleep tests used for adults have mixed results with children.

Does Your Child Show Signs of Sleep Disordered Breathing?

If you have noticed a combination of daytime and nighttime symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, it’s time to talk to someone about getting a positive diagnosis.

You can use our directory to find a local ASAP Pathway dentist.