little girl sleeping peacefully, laying on her side, in bedJust like adults, children can have sleep apnea, too. As parents, we spend lots of time watching our kids sleep and smile when they dream or produce a tiny snore. Most snoring is harmless, but what if it’s not? How can you know?

We do not exclusively mean sleep apnea when talking about “pediatric sleep-disordered breathing”. Sleep-disordered breathing is any disturbance that doesn’t allow your child to breathe easily at night. It can range from small, probably harmless, snores to sleep apnea at its worst. The important thing is to be aware of the signs of childhood sleep apnea so you can head off problems in their early stages.

Pediatric Sleep Apnea Defined

Pediatric sleep apnea is the frequent stoppage of breathing while sleeping due to an obstruction  (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) or abnormal brain function (Central Sleep Apnea). These pauses in breathing can last 8 seconds or much longer and deprive the brain of oxygen. The brain will panic and awaken the sleeper briefly to resume breathing, inhibiting the sleep cycle.

Nighttime Childhood Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Many different symptoms could mean pediatric sleep apnea, and as you may have guessed, many of these happen at night. Remember, though, anytime your child is sleeping, they could present signs of sleep apnea; it doesn’t just have to be at night.


Snoring is the sound of air moving past the relaxed soft tissues of your child’s throat. These tissues vibrate and cause the snoring sound you hear. When we think of sleep apnea, snoring often is top of mind. While it can be a symptom, snoring does not exclusively prove or disprove sleep apnea in children.

Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing can signify childhood sleep-disordered breathing. Your child may breathe through their mouth when they are sick or are congested. That’s normal. But mouth breathing all the time isn’t. When your child breathes through their mouth, it’s a sign that there is a blockage in their sinuses, not allowing them to breathe through their nose.

Bed Wetting or Frequent Nighttime Bathroom Use

Have you ever wondered why you don’t need to use the bathroom during the night at the same frequency as during the day? Our bodies produce a hormone telling our kidneys to continue recycling the excess water through our body at night instead of turning it into urine. Shortly after awakening in the morning, our bodies stop this hormone, and we have to use the bathroom.

Children with sleep apnea are constantly being awakened by their brains because they aren’t getting enough oxygen. Their body doesn’t know to continue producing the hormone when they’re awake, so it stops. These sleep apnea awakenings can be so brief that your child doesn’t know it has happened and because their body has stopped recycling liquid, they wet the bed. Or, the urge to urinate will wake them up again, and they’ll use the bathroom during the night.

Sleep Terrors

Sleep terr