Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where breathing is affected during sleep due to obstruction of the upper airway. This occurs during sleep because the muscles in the airway relax and the airway partially closes.

As a result of OSA, children usually have poor quality sleep and hence may have daytime problems including inattention, hyperactivity, behavior problems, poor school performance, mood problems or daytime sleepiness. The most common cause for OSA in children are enlarged tonsils and adenoids.  Children may also have sleep apnea related to Down syndrome, achondroplasia, cerebral palsy, neuromuscular problems, or craniofacial abnormalities. Noticeable symptoms include:

  • loud snoring/snorts
  • difficulty breathing
  • respiratory pauses
  • restless sleep

Overnight polysomnograms are recommended for an accurate diagnosis of OSA. Treatment may be surgical, such as tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. Mechanical treatment with positive airway pressure (PAP) (a mask that is worn at night which keeps the airway open with a small amount of positive pressure) is also very effective. The addition of oxygen may sometimes be necessary. Weight loss, medications and other treatments are sometimes recommended.