How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Child’s Brain
We all know that sleep is a vital cornerstone to a happy, healthy, and functional life. This is especially true for children. Children are continuously growing and developing—and the quality of their rest will have a very significant impact on this process.
Kids who do not get enough sleep can quickly develop attention problems. They can also find it more difficult to regulate their emotions. Children who are sleep deprived can show a number of warning symptoms… including a decrease in their ability to pay attention in school, and an increase in bad behavior (like tantrums and overreactions to seemingly normal events).
What Does Sleep Apnea Have to Do with This?
Many people associate sleep apnea with older, overweight males (in fairness, this is the demographic where sleep apnea shows up the most), though it is also possible that children can suffer from it. This can happen for a number of reasons, but it is still dangerous. If your child tends to snore, wakes up gasping for air or choking while sleeping, or otherwise seems to act fatigued or over-tired during the day, then there is a chance that he or she may be suffering from the condition.
This is especially dangerous for children. Not only will it hurt their quality of sleep, but kids need sleep even more desperately than adults do. They literally need it to grow and develop the right way… and children can really be impacted by a lower quality of rest.
Sleep apnea will often ‘wake up’ the sufferer multiple times over the course of the night by depriving them of oxygen, though they will not remember waking up. This can happen dozens of times per hour in some extreme cases, and is certainly not something to take lightly.
Children who do not get enough sleep can suffer from memory and learning problems… which can have pretty serious consequences for their future.
How Much Sleep Do Kids Really Need?
Children need more sleep than adults, because their body is still growing and developing. Including any naps that might occur, infants need 12 to 16 hours of sleep per day. Toddlers typically need 11 to 14 hours per day. Children ages 3 to 5 need 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day, and children 6 to 12 need 9 to 12.
Teenagers also need to make sure to get enough sleep. A teenager should sleep for at least 8 hours a day, though 8 to 10 is the recommended number.
But sometimes, it is not so easy to know exactly how well your child is sleeping. And this can be a difficult problem to deal with. If your child starts taking more naps throughout the day than seems normal, begins to have more trouble focusing at school, starts to suffer from excessive daytime fatigue and/or drowsiness, or starts to show more signs of irritability than is typical, then you might have something to worry about.
How Can You Help?
In general, helping your child to sleep better is a process of trying to eliminate problem areas. Setting normal routines can help your child a lot, as this can get them to bed at regular times and give them the best chance at maintaining appropriate sleep hygiene.
But this will not necessarily always help with sleep apnea.
The best way to start helping your child with this specific problem is to take them to a doctor and get a sleep test done. This can really help you to determine if they do, indeed, have the sleeping disorder… and can help you to begin exploring the best courses for treatment.