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NORFOLK - On this segment of CHKD Parenting, Dr. Michael Strunc, a pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, talks about sleep apnea.

Tip 1: What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which a child has repeated, brief pauses in breathing during sleep due to partial or complete obstruction of the airway.
Sleep apnea is most commonly found in children 3 to 6 years of age and may be caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids.
It can cause a decrease in oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide, and result in frequent brief arousals out of sleep- often unknown to patient or parent.
The obstruction, oxygen decreases, and frequent arousals all contribute to the medical consequences of untreated sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be caused, or worsened by obesity- but is most common in children without weight problems. Children with allergies, asthma, reflux or frequent sinus infections may also be at risk.

Tip 2: How does sleep Apnea leads to other problems
These disruptions in sleep can lead to significant problems including:
Headaches
Irritability
Behavior problems
Poor school performance
In addition to restless sleep, pauses in breathing and mouth breathing, symptoms can include snoring, difficulty waking in the morning and a nasal voice.

Tip 3: If your child's apnea is caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids, a tonsillectomy and or adenoidectomy may be the best option. But are there other treatments for sleep apnea?
Treatment for sleep apnea is varied. If obesity is a cause for sleep apnea, changes in diet and exercise may be prescribed to help your child lose weight.
Another option is to treat apnea with a nasal CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure. The CPAP produces continuous airflow that acts as a splint to hold the airway open and prevent blockage so that breathing is continuous without obstruction.
The only accurate way to diagnose sleep apnea is with a sleep study. Snoring alone is not diagnostic. Sleep studies provide vital information about a childs sleep beyond sleep apnea.

If you think your child may have sleep apnea, make an appointment with your pediatrician. Your doctor may refer you to CHKDs Sleep Disorders Center where we evaluate all aspects of sleep, from bedtime routines, and curtain calls to sleepwalking and of course sleep apnea.

The sleep physician may order a sleep study which will evaluates the breathing pattern, heart rate, oxygen levels and brain wave activity of children while they sleep. Children spend the night in a specially outfitted room, staying all night - along with mom or dad. Its a simple, painless test. Bedtime routines are maintained, complete with favorite PJs, stuffed animals, pillows and story time.

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