Study: 90 percent of kids with sleep apnea undiagnosed

By Tauren Dyson

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The vast majority of children with sleep apnea go untreated because they don't know they have it, a new study says.

In fact, about 90 percent of kids with sleep apnea go undiagnosed, according to a study published in February in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. That's important because up to 15 percent of all children have sleep apnea or some other form of sleep-disordered breathing.


"Children who have behavior problems or are suspected to have ADHD might actually be suffering from a chronic lack of restorative sleep," John White, a researcher at Greenville Sleep and Breathing Specialists and study co-author, said in a news release.

Children with undiagnosed sleep-disordered breathing reportedly visit healthcare professionals 226 percent more than the average person.

Obstructed breathing during sleep interrupts neurocognitive development, cellular regeneration, and tissue and bone growth that occur during that time. During this interruption, the brain shifts from deep sleep to light sleep, halting the brain from important restorative functions.

"A lot of airway problems come from poor jaw structure," White said. "And the tongue is crucial in shaping the mouth, jaw and nasal cavity."


Excessive sleepiness, irritability, snoring, restless sleep, teeth grinding and jaw clenching, migraines and bedwetting are all symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing and obstructed sleep apnea.

Kids suspected of having either condition are referred to a myofunctional therapist, pediatric ENT, sleep specialist and dentist trained in craniofacial development.

Once diagnosed, tonsil and adenoid removal are both typical treatment options for those diagnosed with sleep-disordered breathing and obstructed sleep apnea. Although, if those don't fix the problem of sleep-disordered breathing, a dentist can apply an orthodontic maxillary expander across the palate and top molars of the child's mouth.

"Once we identify sleep apnea, treatment is usually very effective. The challenge is catching it early enough," White said. "The early years are critical for brain development, so it's essential that this condition is on our radar."

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