Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Kids: Causes and Treatments

Kid sleeping

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a medical condition affecting children and adults. Pauses in breathing during sleep characterize it. These pauses can last for several seconds to minutes and repeatedly occur throughout the night. OSA can cause various health problems, including daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and poor concentration. It can also lead to more severe issues such as heart disease, stroke, and even death.

This article will discuss the three leading causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children and the proper treatments and prevention for this.

Common Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Kids

1. Obesity

One of the most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children is obesity. Obese children tend to have thicker necks and narrow airways, which can lead to obstructed breathing during sleep. Additionally, fatty tissue around the throat can further narrow the airway and lead to difficulty breathing during sleep.

2. Enlarged Adenoids and Tonsils

Enlarged adenoids and tonsils are another common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children. Adenoids and tonsils are located at the back of the throat and can become enlarged due to infection or allergies. An enlarged adenoid or tonsil can block the airway, leading to difficulty breathing during sleep.

3. Genetics

Genetics can also cause obstructive sleep apnea in children. Genetics can play a role in the airway’s size and shape, making it more likely for a child to develop OSA. Additionally, some genetic disorders can lead to enlarged adenoids or tonsils, which can also cause the condition.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Kids

The most common symptom of OSA in children is snoring, which may be loud and persistent. Other symptoms include pauses in breathing, gasping for air during sleep, restlessness, and daytime fatigue. In some cases, the condition can cause sleep-disordered breathing, characterized by frequent arousals from sleep and frequent awakenings.

Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Kids

The first treatment for OSA in children is adenotonsillectomy. This involves the removal of the adenoids and the tonsils to open the airway and reduce the risk of obstruction. After the procedure, most children report feeling less sleepy during the day and improved overall quality of life.

The second treatment option for OSA in kids is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This involves the use of a small mask that is worn during sleep. The mask is connected to a machine providing steady airflow into the airway. This helps to maintain the airway open and prevents the pauses in breathing that are associated with OSA.

The third treatment option for OSA in children is lifestyle modification. This includes avoiding certain foods that can worsen the condition, losing weight if necessary, and avoiding activities that can increase the risk for OSA. In addition, parents should ensure that their child gets adequate sleep and is not exposed to second-hand smoke.


As with any health condition, the best way to prevent OSA in children is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and eating a balanced diet. Additionally, it is essential to monitor your child’s sleep habits and ensure that they are getting adequate rest. If you speculate that your child may have OSA, it is vital to seek medical attention through a sleep apnea clinic as soon as possible.

The Lethbridge Snoring & Sleep Apnea Clinic is an excellent resource for those seeking better sleep health. Our sleep testing helps to provide a more accurate diagnosis of underlying sleep conditions. If your kid is suffering from sleep difficulties, contact our sleep apnea clinic in Lethbridge today to learn more about how they can help you improve your sleep health.

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