The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released new guidelines encouraging physicians to take the problem of sleep apnea more seriously in children. The guidelines highlighted that it may, in some circumstances, be important use CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for the treatment of sleep apnea in children.
An increasing number of studies since the last review of sleep disordered breathing in children in 2002 have highlighted the need to take the condition seriously. Sleep apnea has been shown to affect the size of the hippocampus (the part of the brain associated with memory), and behavioural disorders such as ADHD are also linked to the problem. Many hormones such as growth hormone are released in sleep, as such sleep apnea can impact on normal development and maturity.
The APP guidelines make the following suggestions:
- A child’s routine check ups should involve assessment for sleep disordered breathing and snoring.
- “Habitual snoring, disturbed sleep from intermittent pauses, snorts or gasps, or daytime behavioral problems” indicate the need for further testing such as a sleep study.
- Surgery may be indicated in children that have enlarged tonsils.
- Post-surgical re-assessment is necessary to ensure that the sleep apnea has been addressed.
- If the condition fails to improve after surgery, or if surgery is not an option for the child, CPAP may be indicated.
- Weight loss should always be part of the treatment regime for children who are overweight.
It is hoped that these guidelines will make physicians more aware of the problem of sleep apnea in children. According to Dr. Vikas Jain, a sleep specialist at Integris Health in Oklahoma City, “The sooner we can diagnose a child with this condition, the sooner we can get these kids started on the right treatments to improve their quality of life and their overall health.”