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Children and Sleep Apnea

Some 13% of children aged 6 to 11 and 14% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 are overweight. The ever-increasing waistlines put children at risk for heart disease, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. Those extra pounds also put children at risk for sleep apnea—a serious, debilitating, and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. 

While obesity is a risk factor for developing sleep apnea, children who are not overweight can also have the condition due to enlarged tonsils.

The repercussions of sleep apnea and poor sleep for children are vast. When children don’t get the sleep they need, they’re at risk for health, performance, and safety problems; difficulties in school are often the result. 

However, sleep deprivation in children is often overlooked, and their symptoms are often attributed to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or other behavior disorders. Inattention and hyperactivity among general pediatric patients are associated with increased daytime sleepiness and (especially in young boys) snoring, and other symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing.

Parents should be aware of nighttime and daytime symptoms of sleep apnea. If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, his or her symptoms should be discussed with a pediatrician or a physician trained in sleep disorders medicine.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Children


At night:

  • Snoring
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Mouth breathing

During the day:

  • Difficulty getting up in the morning, even after getting the proper amount of sleep
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Sleepiness
  • Behavioral problems

Learn more about Sleep Medicine at St. Luke's