According to sleepforkids.org, 13 percent of children from ages 6 to 11 are overweight. While these age groups should be getting between 10-11 hours of sleep per night, obesity can cause these numbers to go down due to sleep apnea. So, what exactly is sleep apnea and how is it affecting our children?
Childhood Obesity:What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea happens when you have brief, frequent involuntary breathing pauses while you’re sleeping. This causes you to awaken throughout the night and robs you of a deep, soothing sleep pattern. When you’re experiencing sleep apnea, you’ll often feel sleepy and groggy throughout your day. For children, this can hinder any learning activities and can make concentrating at school more difficult.
Sleep apnea has many symptoms that can affect children both during their sleep and during the day. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, sleep apnea may be the cause and discussion with your physician can help determine if that’s the case. Symptoms often include:
- Mouth breathing
- Restless sleep
- Extreme tiredness in the morning
- Behavior issues
Related Article: Without Sleep Apnea Treatment, More Than Your Sleep Can Be Affected
Childhood Obesity: How Sleep Apnea Comes About
According to Brian Kaplan, MD, and Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, “I had a 16- or 17-year-old patient who was morbidly obese. The child had sleep apnea and was already on CPAP, but it was clear that CPAP was not going to be a long-term solution. We had the child evaluated, and he ended up getting gastric bypass surgery. Over the next six months, he lost about 50 pounds, and we were able to decrease the CPAP settings almost in half.”
Learn more about Brian Kaplan’s study: https://www.enttoday.org/article/pediatric-obesity-and-sleep-apnea/
Therefore, according to physicians worldwide, childhood obesity is often a direct cause of sleep apnea. This is because when overweight, our bodies have a harder time taking deep breaths.
Dr. Kaplan notes that when overweight, we experience “a collapse of the soft tissues of the throat. There are also different fat pads within the throat and in the neck that further narrow the airway.”
Childhood Obesity: Treatment for Sleep Apnea
While simple diet and exercise may come to mind for treating obesity and sleep apnea in children, there are many important steps to take to create a healthy lifestyle for a child, such as:
- Eat meals together
- Be supportive
- Do family activities that involve exercise and movement
- Do not use food items as part of any punishments or rewards – food is necessary and any diets or food restrictions should be taken up with your doctor
- Create a bedtime routine
- Move towards creating a balanced schedule
Related Article: Sleep Apnea Causes, Symptoms and Cures