Detecting Sleep Apnea in Children Who Snore
Sleep apnea is certainly no joke. And while we usually associate it with adults who snore, the unfortunate truth is that it can also affect children. It is estimated that 1 to 4 percent of children currently suffer from sleep apnea. But what a lot of people do not realize is that detecting sleep apnea is sometimes really difficult.
This is a problem that ends up leaving many children undiagnosed and untreated. If you cannot technically verify that a child has sleep apnea, then prescribing treatment becomes way trickier.
But why are children not usually diagnosed with the problem? As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons. Here are some of them.
Why Are Children Under-Diagnosed?
The biggest reason for this is the cost and inconvenience of traditional methods for diagnosis. In order for children to be properly diagnosed with sleep apnea, they usually need to see a sleep specialist and undergo a sleep study—after which, doctors will be able to determine for sure how many ‘apneas’ were endured by the child during their rest.
But this process is lengthy, and requires a lot of resources, time, and coordination. For one, clinical sleep laboratories are surprisingly scarce… as are certified pediatric sleep specialists. These tests are also expensive, inconvenient (because they require an overnight stay and a lot of logistical planning), and can sometimes not even work if the child cannot manage to go to sleep at the right time.
But… there are new studies in the works that might change all of this. As it turns out, a computer analysis of oxygen levels in the blood during sleep could possibly provide a method for determining whether or not a child has sleep apnea without all of the added difficulties associated with the usual testing procedures… so that is something that may really help children who need a diagnosis to receive it.
A New Testing Method for Detecting Sleep Apnea
According to the American Journal of Respirator and Critical Care Medicine and a study that was published in it about this testing method, researchers were able to develop an automated system that consisted of 23 analytic features that were figured into a diagnostic neural-network algorithm. All of the data required for this diagnosis method can be obtained by using a pulse oximeter, which is essentially a little device that clips onto a patient’s fingertip.
The study, which was called ‘Nocturnal Oximetry-Based Evaluation of Habitually Snoring Children,’ showed that this approach, which is much less complicated than the polysomnography diagnostic method (the most common sleep-apnea diagnosis method used in the US), could not only diagnose sleep apnea, but that it could also cut down costs by as much as 95 percent.
As for how accurate the tests were… it seemed that test results got even more accurate as the severity of the sleep apnea cases in question increased.
The test was able to detect 75 percent of the cases of mild sleep apnea, 82 percent of moderate cases, and 90 percent of severe cases.
How Can You Tell If Your Child Might Have Sleep Apnea?
While it is not always possible to ‘diagnose’ your child without a sleep study (or some other method), there are some signs and symptoms that you can watch out for that may be an indication that your child is having problems with it.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea in children…
- Heavy breathing while sleeping
- Snoring, which may include pauses in breathing, gasps, or snorts
- Very restless sleep
- Sleeping in usual positions
- Bedwetting (especially if your child usually doesn’t wet the bed)
- Daytime sleeping
- Behavioral problems
Obviously, sleep apnea is a very serious condition that can put you at risk for a number of other diseases and conditions. So if you are afraid that your child may be suffering from it, it is very important to get them to a doctor so that you can begin the process of getting a diagnosis.