Do you fall asleep or feel drowsy during the day? Have problems concentrating or forget things easily? Wake up in the morning with a headache, a bad taste in your mouth or swollen legs? Do you get up frequently during the night to go to the bathroom? Wake up during the night sweating or with chest pains? These are common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. You may have other symptoms that only your sleep partner may recognize such as; gasping, tossing and turning, loud snoring and periods of not breathing which may occur as few as five times an hour up to fifty times an hour during the night.
As we get older we might stop breathing during the night, so sometimes sleep apnea is harder to diagnosis. You might need to have a sleep apnea test by your doctor or a sleep specialist, so they can monitor your sleeping habits and identify whether or not you have OSA. One determining factor of sleep apnea is that your blood oxygen level will drop sharply.
Children on the other hand, OSA symptoms vary depending on their age. If a child is younger than five years old symptoms include snoring, sleeping with an open mouth, sweating, daytime restlessness and waking up during the night. A child five years and older will also have the same symptoms but also will experience behavior problems, a short attention span, have a hard time with school work and even might wet the bed.
As with adults, children with OSA almost always snore. The one key difference between an adult and a child, the child with sleep apnea won't grow as quickly and they don't fall asleep during the day (no matter how hard you try). This developmental delay can cause the right side of their heart to get bigger. Therefore, if you feel your child has OSA or developing sleep apnea, he should be tested right away. There is a new test for a child that is forthcoming, with a simple urine test the doctor can determine if they have OSA. A child diagnosed with OSA most likely has large tonsils and adenoids and if they do it is often recommended to have them surgically removed.
Other reasons your child may have sleep apnea is due to being overweight. Excess weight on the neck applies pressure to the airway. Allergies may trigger OSA and can be treated with nasal steroids which may improve the nasal obstruction.
Additional sleep disorders with similar OSA symptoms are narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome. An underactive thyroid may also have symptoms like sleep apnea. Why see a physician if you have OSA? OSA in adults can cause other health problems such as migraine headaches, high blood pressure and heart/lung problems. Children cannot focus on their school classes, which causes behavioral problems at school and home.
If you child has Down syndrome they are at risk for OSA. Other disorders that can cause OSA are: various neuromuscular and central nervous system abnormalities, craniofacial abnormalities; like Pierre Robin sequence a condition present at birth in which an infant has a very small lower jaw, a tongue that tends to fall back and downward, and a soft cleft palate, Treacher Collins syndrome a condition that is passed hereditarily through families and leads to defects of the face and Crouzon syndrome a genetic disorder characterized by the premature fusion of certain skull bones which affect the shape of the head and face.