Identifying sleep apnea in children

Although sleep apnea is a condition typically associated with older people, it can occur in people of any age, including children. If you’re concerned that your child may have sleep apnea, it is important to understand that the condition manifests in different ways in children and adults.

What are the causes of sleep apnea in children?

Known as paediatric obstructive sleep apnea, the version of the disorder that affects children is usually caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. In adults, the underlying cause tends to be obesity.

However, as obesity prevalence amongst children continues to rise, so does the number of children suffering from sleep apnea. In this way, weight gain can still affect a young person’s chances of developing the condition, and it is important to focus on feeding your child a diet that will help them to maintain a healthy weight.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea in children?

Like adult sleep apnea, symptoms of the paediatric version of the disorder can include loud snoring, uneven breathing during sleep, restlessness, and mouth breathing. However, children may also experience night time symptoms such as bed wetting and sleep terrors.

The daytime symptoms of sleep apnea also tend to be different in children compared to adults. Whilst adults with the condition tend to be sluggish and irritable, a child with the condition may experience learning and development issues, hyperactivity, poor performance in school, behavioural issues, and problems with paying attention. Of course, these symptoms can be caused by a wide range of issues, so it is important that you make an appointment with a doctor in order to secure a diagnosis.

What are the risk factors for developing sleep apnea?

Although any child could potentially develop sleep apnea (particularly if they are overweight), some are more at risk than others. For example, conditions such as cerebral palsy, sickle cell disease, Down syndrome, neuromuscular disease, and facial abnormalities can all put children at a higher risk of sleep apnea.

Treating the condition

Fortunately, sleep apnea in children can be effectively treated using oral devices, medications, CPAP machines or, if necessary, surgery to remove the tonsils. It is important to secure a diagnosis early on if you believe that your child has sleep apnea as it can cause issues with growth, heart health, and personal development if left untreated.

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Supporting someone with sleep apnea

Thanks to the introduction of effective treatments such as the CPAP machine, sleep apnea has become a manageable condition that many sufferers can deal with effectively.

Despite this, however, virtually everyone with sleep apnea would rather not have the condition. Indeed, sleep apnea can still cause a number of physical and emotional issues that can be difficult to deal with. In this way, therefore, it is important that the family members and partners of people with sleep apnea are aware of the effects that the condition can have on their loved one’s life. Here are a few ways that you can support a person with sleep apnea:

1. Remind them that sleep apnea is not their fault

One of the primary and most obvious symptoms of sleep apnea is loud and consistent snoring. Partners of sufferers, therefore, may have to deal with disrupted sleep on a regular basis and may even decide to sleep in a separate room from their partner during snoring episodes.

Unsurprisingly, this can generate tensions in a relationship and can cause the sufferer to feel guilty, rejected or depressed. In this way, it is important that the partners of sufferers are open about the way in which the sleep disruption affects them, whilst reassuring the person with sleep apnea that they are not blamed for their condition in any way.

2. Let them know that their condition is improving

If you notice that a CPAP machine is having a positive effect on a person’s snoring problem, let them know. Indeed, there is nothing more heartening than positive messages from partners and family members which, by extension, will encourage them to comply with treatment regimes.

3. Make lifestyle changes a family mission

Regardless of whether you live in a small or a large household, encouraging everyone to exercise regularly and eat more healthily can have a hugely positive effect on a sleep apnea sufferer. Losing weight and exercising regularly can be hugely beneficial to those with sleep apnea, but these lifestyle changes can be difficult to do alone. Getting everyone involved will help them stay focused and, of course, will improve the health of wellbeing of the entire household. It’s a win-win situation!

Lifestyle habits that make sleep apnea worse

As anyone with sleep apnea will know, the most important action to take after diagnosis is to find an effective treatment option such as a CPAP machine. While the field of modern medicine has come up with some life-changing therapies to treat the disease, patients hoping to stave off their symptoms need to make sure that their lifestyle isn’t making their condition worse.

A range of factors can make sleep apnea worse, potentially rendering medical treatments less effective. These include:

1. Weight gain

Obesity is one of the main causes of sleep apnea as heavier people tend to have a greater build-up of tissues around the neck that can restrict the airway. As such, if an obese person diagnosed with sleep apnea gains weight, their condition will almost certainly get worse.

Unfortunately, sleep apnea can generate a vicious cycle of weight gain as the fatigue caused by the disorder can increase the appetites of sufferers. In this way, it is important that people with sleep apnea are mindful of their diet and exercise choices. If you find yourself reaching for mid-morning treats on a regular basis, try to distract yourself with other things and remind yourself of the importance of keeping your weight in check.

2. Alcohol

In the short term, alcohol can make sleep apnea worse as it relaxes the muscles in the throat. This means that the airway will be more easily obstructed during the night and sufferers are more likely to wake up at regular intervals. In the long term, therefore, regular alcohol use can cause fatigue (and all of the negative symptoms that go with it).

3. Smoking

Smokers will already know many of the reasons why they should quit the habit, but those with sleep apnea may be unaware of the ways in which it can affect their condition. Indeed, as well as raising the risk of developing sleep apnea in the first place, smoking can irritate the airway, throat and tongue. In turn, this worsens the physical symptoms associated with the disorder.

4. Prescription medications

Some prescription medications such as muscle relaxants and painkillers can make the symptoms of your sleep apnea worse. Remember to talk with your doctor about your condition before you start taking any new drugs for other health problems.

When to see a doctor for suspected sleep apnea

Most people experience sleep problems at some point in their lives. From insomnia to snoring, getting a decent amount of restful sleep can be difficult in today’s ‘always on’ society. As such, the line between everyday sleep issues and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can be difficult to spot. Indeed, sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that often goes undiagnosed as sufferers brush off their symptoms as simple tiredness or burnout. If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, the following signs should prompt you to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible:

1. Chronic snoring

Snoring is amongst the most commonly cited symptoms associated with sleep apnea. This is because snoring is caused by the obstruction of a person’s airways, a problem which lies at the root of the disorder. If your partner is losing sleep because of your frequent loud snoring, or if you often wake yourself up with your own snoring, you may well have sleep apnea.

2. You’re always tired

If you spend over seven hours in bed every night and still feel chronically tired, you could be suffering from sleep apnea. Indeed, the condition can seriously impact the quality of your sleep by waking you up at regular intervals. The excessive sleepiness caused by sleep apnea can be very dangerous, especially if you drive or operate heavy machinery, so make sure to book an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.

3. Your blood pressure is high

Hypertension is strongly linked to sleep apnea. This is because the depleted oxygen levels caused by the disorder can lead to a spike in blood pressure. Only treatment options such as a CPAP machine will be able to address this dangerous issue, so do not hesitate to book in for a medical examination.

4. You are overweight

Obstructive sleep apnea is strongly linked to being overweight or obese as it is often the result of excess fatty tissues that have accumulated in the throat and neck. If you’re a man with a neck circumference of over 17 inches or a woman with a neck circumference over than 16 inches, it is a good idea to get yourself checked out.

The dangers of micro sleep

If there’s ever been a moment when you’ve been listening to someone but can’t recall what they said, or have been driving somewhere yet can’t remember how you got there, it could be you were having a micro sleep.

What is micro sleep?

Micro sleep is when your brain shut downs for up to 30 seconds. It happens when you are overtired and your brain can’t cope, so you simply nod off to deal with the fatigue.

The dangers of micro sleep

Falling asleep unexpectedly, even if it’s just for a few moments, can be extremely dangerous and sometimes can even result in death.

Unfortunately, micro sleep often happens when we are doing something routine, like driving a car – which makes it all the more dangerous.

Sometimes you might not even know you are suffering from micro sleep, as you might feel as though you are awake and yet your brain isn’t functioning how it should.

Risk periods for micro sleep

There are certain times of the day when you might be more likely to have a micro sleep episode, and this includes the early afternoon and just before dawn.

Your chance of having a micro sleep incident also dramatically increases when you don’t have the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult to identify when you’re having a micro sleep episode as your eyes can remain open throughout the duration of the incident.

Common signs you’ve had a micro sleep episode

If you are staring blankly at the person you’re talking to, feel your head drop and then jerk up again, are blinking slowly yet frequently, find your body suddenly jerking or aren’t able to recall what someone was saying, then you might have experienced a micro sleep. It’s important to be vigilant of these signs for your own safety.

Micro sleep and sleep apnea

One of the biggest causes of micro sleep is sleep apnea. Not getting a good night’s rest as the result of suffering from a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea can greatly increase your micro sleep risk.

However, treatments are available to improve the symptoms of your sleep apnea, so if you believe this is happening to you then it’s important you seek help.

If you feel this might be you, get in contact with us today to see how we can assist.

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How playing the didgeridoo could help treat sleep apnea

Sawing logs. Grinding gravel. Rattling the roof. The soundtrack of snoring can be heard in households across Australia with many sufferers keen to change the channel to something quieter.

One of the main causes of snoring is sleep apnea – also spelled “apnoea” – a treatable disorder that causes brief interruptions to breathing while you are sleeping. Snoring is often the most disruptive element of sleep apnea, causing sleep loss for partners and sometimes embarrassment to sufferers.

There are many modern medical technologies available to help including CPAP machines that regulate pressure in the airways. However, there is evidence that a much older form of pressure regulation could also help reduce the volume of snoring.

Sleep apnea could be reduced with breathing exercises

A study conducted in 2006 and published in the British Medical Journal tested whether playing the didgeridoo could reduce the impact of snoring. (https://www.bmj.com/content/332/7536/266?ref=driverlayer.com)

A number of patients were given lessons in playing the traditional indigenous Australian instrument, which is played using a circular breathing technique so that a constant flow of air is directed into the hollow tube. The study found that playing the didgeridoo did help treat moderate cases of sleep apnea, showing a reduction in daytime sleepiness and nighttime sleep disruption for both sleep apnea sufferers and their partners.

It was theorised that the positive effect was gained through patients learning circular breathing – inhaling continuously through the nose while exhaling through the mouth – deepening their breathing while strengthening the muscles in their airways. The study found the best results for didgeridoo playing on sleep apnea came after four months of playing the traditional instrument.

Using modern technology to treat sleep apnea

Strengthening the mouth, tongue and throat through deep breathing exercises has been a long-standing recommendation for treating sleep apnea, and the use of a didgeridoo is certainly an innovative approach.

However, sleep apnea can be a serious condition that needs a spectrum of treatments to manage. The advantage of modern sleep apnea treatment is that a number of techniques can be deployed at once, such as deep breathing exercises and the use of a CPAP machine to ensure the most effective treatment.

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Five reasons why exercise could help your sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea isn’t just potentially a serious (even life-threatening) condition, it also has a number of unpleasant symptoms which can significantly reduce your quality of life. In many cases, exercise has been shown to help to reduce the severity and duration of sleep apnea symptoms. Take a look at five benefits which exercise might have on sleep apnoea.

1. Exercise can assist weight loss

Although not all sleep apnoea sufferers are overweight, excess fat is considered to be a key risk factor in the development of the condition, for several reasons. Becoming more active clearly burns additional calories, assisting in weight loss alongside a suitable diet.

2. Exercise strengthens breathing muscles

Exercise causes your breathing muscles to work harder in order to ensure you have sufficient oxygen to move faster, lift more or whatever else your exercise entails. Improved muscle condition helps to increase the efficiency of your breathing, potentially improving oxygen flow around the body. This, in turn, can help to reduce the effect which sleep apnoea has.

3. Assisting with daytime sleepiness

An unpleasant symptom of sleep apnea, sufferers frequently complain of feeling tired all the time. Not only does this reduce the amount of activity they complete, it can also cause them to doze or nap during the day, reducing their chances of sleeping at night. The hormones released during exercise can create greater alertness, helping to maintain a healthier sleep pattern.

4. Psychological benefits

Low mood is an almost inevitable effect of sleep apnoea. The endorphins released during exercise have been shown to enhance mood. Some studies have shown that exercise is as effective as medication in treating mild to moderate depression.

5. Exercise can help night time sleep

It’s common sense that exercise tires you out! Managing to get in a good workout gives the body a signal that restful slumber is needed to help the body recover from its exertion. Exercise optimises the chances of drifting into a deep sleep, which provides the most effective rest.

No matter what type of exercise is taken, there’s little doubt that it will have a positive effect on sleep apnoea symptoms.

Looking after your mental health when you have sleep apnea

The physical effects of sleep apnea, such as frequent night-time waking, loud snoring and breathing difficulties, are well-documented within the medical profession. As such, there are a variety of different treatments available, such as CPAP machines, that can effectively control these symptoms.

However, the effects of sleep apnea on mental health are less well-documented by medical professionals and researchers. Only recently has the healthcare sector started to realise the many detrimental effects of sleep apnea on mental wellbeing. If you suffer from sleep apnea and experience any of the following symptoms, it may be time to have a chat with your doctor about how to deal with the less visible effects of your condition:

1. Anxiety

Sleep apnea can heighten feelings of anxiety, particularly during the initial stages of diagnosis. Indeed, CPAP machines can make people feel vulnerable and the knowledge that the condition can cause people to stop breathing frequently during sleep can be very disconcerting.

2. Depression

Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown that people with sleep apnea are more susceptible to episodes of depression than people without the condition. Indeed, the draining effect of sleep loss and the mental pressures that come with a chronic diagnosis can seriously affect a person’s thoughts and wellbeing. What’s more, people with sleep apnea have a reduced supply of oxygen to their brain during the night, which can affect the brain’s functionality and increase the risk of depression.

3. Relationship issues

Unfortunately, sleep apnea can put a serious strain on relationships thanks to problems such as loud snoring. It can drive spouses and significant others into separate bedrooms and, subsequently, can cause people to drift apart. Issues such as this are probably best addressed by relationship counsellors.

4. Problems with concentration

The worry and sleep deprivation that accompany sleep apnea can cause serious concentration issues during the daytime. This can have a serious impact on almost every aspect of a person’s life such as their career, family commitments, or social life. Fortunately, addressing the physical symptoms of sleep apnea can help to reduce these cognitive impairments and help sufferers get on with their lives.

Sleep apnoea: activities to do in the day to help you sleep at night

Without realising it, many of the activities we do during the day influence how we sleep at night. If you suffer from sleep apnoea, you will understand how difficult it can be to fall asleep or have a night of undisturbed sleep and should try some of the below activities to potentially improve how you sleep.

1. Meditate

A relaxing activity like yoga or meditating can help clear your mind and relax your body ready for sleep. Meditating whilst wearing your CPAP mask will help you to become more comfortable wearing the mask and associate the mask with peacefulness, which will help you when wearing the mask to fall asleep.

2. Exercise

Exercise has countless benefits for your body, including contributing to deeper and more restful sleep. It is easy for any individual, even those with busy lifestyles, to become more active as anything from walking instead of taking the bus to work or going on a short evening jog is beneficial.

3. Restrict your caffeine intake

Starting your day with a cup of coffee is fine, but after midday, stick to herbal teas or water as this will ensure your mind and body aren’t restless at night due to caffeine. Remember, tea and soft drinks such as sodas also contain caffeine, coffee isn’t the only culprit!

For more information on food and drinks that can improve your sleep, check out our blog post here.

4. Perfect your sleep environment

During the day it is important to set your room up for the evening. Simple tasks such as making the bed and spraying lavender oil on your sheets can make a huge difference. Invest in blackout curtains and pillows that offer proper neck support to make sure nothing irritates or distracts you whilst you sleep. Store your CPAP machine in a convenient location by your bed and wear it during the day to ensure you have the right fit for the evening.

Contact ApneaSeal for more information on sleep apnoea

If you’d like to learn more about CPAP therapy and how to manage sleep apnoea, do not hesitate to get in touch with ApneaSeal, our team of qualified medical experts are here to help!

Helping your child use a CPAP Mask

Sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, even children. However, when children are very young, they might find wearing a CPAP mask annoying or uncomfortable, particularly if this is something that’s new to them. Eventually, your child will get used to the mask, but in the meantime, here are some ways you can help them:

Routine is important

Have a set bedtime routine you stick to every night, as this will help your child get used to putting the mask on at the same time in the same way. If it’s integrated into their evening the same way that brushing their teeth is, soon enough they won’t even notice it. It’s important to make bedtime routines as simple as possible without too many steps. Unessential elements like preparing clothes and packed lunches should be done in the morning.

Check on the CPAP mask at night

When still getting used to the mask, children are in the habit of pulling their mask off while asleep. While the mask is still new, it’s a good idea to reposition the mask at night if it has slipped out of place. This won’t be something you have to do in the long term, so losing a bit of sleep for a few weeks will be worth the change in your child’s life.

Involve them in the decisions

Although some children will prefer you to handle putting on the CPAP mask, asking them whether they want to be a part of the process could help them feel more in control. You could ask them if they want to try fitting the mask one night or whether they want to be the one to press the button and switch on the machine. However, it’s important that wearing the mask itself isn’t a choice, as this is essential.

Answer their questions

Your child will probably be confused about their CPAP mask. Make sure you explain everything to them so that they understand why they need to wear it and the benefits it offers. Doing this in a simple way can help children be more receptive to this new part of their life.

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