ENT Head & Neck Surgery Center

Rm 02, 5/F., Kai Seng Commerical Centre,
4-6 Hankow Road, TST Kln, HK
(near Kowloon Hotel)
Tel: (852) 3100 0555
Fax: (852) 3100 0556

Lawrence Chow / ENT Doctor

Sleep Disordered Breathing

Sleep Apnea in Children: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

In babies and children, sleep apnea can be a disturbing and dangerous condition. This article goes over causes of sleep apnea in children, symptoms and its treatments.


What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious illness that can be life-threatening. It’s when the throat muscles relax and the airway becomes blocked during sleep, disrupting the breathing pattern. Sleep apnea can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. More than 80% of those who have this condition are overweight or obese. It can also lead to long-term mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.


Who has it?

A recent study showed that about 30% of children in the US have obstructive sleep apnea, even though many are not identified. This is much higher than in adults, where the percentage is around 5%. The percentage in adults decreases when they move into the retirement age.


How do you know if your child has sleep apnea?

Children with sleep apnea usually snore, have difficulty breathing or pause for a few seconds while they are sleeping. They also exhibit symptoms of daytime sleepiness and struggle to maintain attention in school. It is important to identify this condition in children because it can lead to emotional and behavioral problems.

Some of these symptoms are similar to those described in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In fact, some children with sleep apnea are misdiagnosed as having ADHD.


Signs of Sleep Apnea in children

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes people to stop and start breathing during sleep. This may happen as many as 10 times an hour. Sleep apnea is most common in adults, but children can also have it. Symptoms of sleep apnea in children include:

  • Snore loudly
  • Stop breathing intermittently during sleep, followed by snorting or gasping
  • Sleep in abnormal position
  • Sweat heavily during sleep
  • Difficult to wake up in the morning
  • Headache in early morning after waking up
  • Have difficulty at school or behavioural difficulty
  • Moody, irritable
  • Inattention
  • Have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Daytime sleepiness


How to treat sleep apnea in children

Most children suffering from sleep apnea could be cured by surgical excision of the tonsils and adenoid. It is considered to be a low risk surgical procedure.

When Surgery is considered inappropriate, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment will be considered. The setting of the CPAP treatment has to be determined by a proper overnight sleep test.

Children suffering from mild sleep apnea may also improve with medical treatment.


Did you find the information useful? If so, continue reading our posts.


For details of our ENT services, diagnosis, and treatment, please consult our ENT specialist.



HK ENT Specialist Ltd.

Hong Kong based ENT clinic centre

For ENT Services, Audiology & Speech Therapy,

Sleep Disordered Breathing Management,

Hearing Aid Prescription & Medical Cosmetic Services


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