How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea

It’s essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. Early diagnosis and treatment can help maintain healthy growth and development.

During normal sleep, throat muscles relax enough to allow air to pass through the mouth and nose into the lungs. A child’s upper airway can narrow or close if these muscles relax too much.

Sleep Disturbances

Many children with sleep apnea experience loud, disruptive snoring. They may also wake up multiple times during the night and often wet their bed. These interruptions in breathing, called apnea, can disrupt sleep quality and cause irritability and poor concentration during the day.

The most common cause of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea Los Angeles CA is enlarged tonsils and adenoids, which can block the airway. Ear, nose, and throat doctors often recommend the removal of the tonsils (tonsillectomy) or adenoids (adenoidectomy) to open the airway.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea often resemble other conditions and medical problems, so consult your child’s physician with any questions or concerns. Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms, health history, and sleep patterns and perform a physical exam.


Irritability is a feeling of anger, annoyance, or frustration that can be easily triggered. It can be hard to control and cause negative emotional responses in others around you.

Children with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea often have throat muscles that relax so much that it affects breathing during sleep. They may also have a narrow throat passage that makes breathing difficult. They can experience a lack of oxygen, leading to problems at school and in their daily lives. They may even develop heart failure if the condition is not treated. Fortunately, it can be diagnosed with a polysomnogram (overnight sleep study).

Excessive Tiredness

Tiredness is a typical and common symptom, but it’s time to talk to your doctor when your child is sleepy or lacking energy consistently.

Fatigue is a crucial sign of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea. Kids with this condition can experience repeated pauses in their breathing throughout the night that prevent enough oxygen from reaching their lungs. This causes short gasps that wake them up. 


Nocturnal enuresis occurs when the bladder fills up with urine while a person sleeps. This is most common in young children. It is a normal part of childhood development and usually improves as a child ages.

A problem with the nervous system or urinary tract may cause nocturnal enuresis. Some children with nocturnal enuresis have enlarged tonsils and adenoids that block their airways. This causes breathing problems, which can result in wetting the bed.

Adults who continue to wet the bed may have an underlying health condition, such as a urinary tract infection or chronic constipation that prevents the bladder from emptying. Treatments may help to control the wetting.


A wide variety of conditions can cause headaches. Some headaches are specifically associated with sleep disorders. These include migraines, cluster headaches, and chronic paroxysmal hemicrania (CPH).

CPH is similar to a cluster headache, but the pain is diffuse and more frequently occurs in the ophthalmic trigeminal region of the brain. Sleep deprivation also triggers this condition and tends to occur after long periods of non-REM sleep.

In addition, CPH can be triggered by certain foods and drinks, such as coffee, alcohol, and chocolate. It also can be exacerbated by bruxism (clenching and grinding the teeth) or anxiety. CPH can often be relieved by treatment for pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.

Mouth Breathing

Children with mouth breathing may have a dry mouth upon waking, bad breath, drool on their pillows, or malocclusion (where the upper and lower teeth don’t align). This can affect their growth and cause behavioral problems.

A doctor might look in their throat for enlarged tonsils or adenoids, and a sleep study might also be recommended. Treating the underlying condition often eliminates the need to breathe through the mouth. For instance, steroid nasal sprays or allergy medications reduce sinus congestion and inflammation. 

Richard Brown


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