Johannesburg, South Africa

Sleep Apnoea In Children

Paediatric obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your child’s breathing is partially or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep. The condition is due to narrowing or blockage of the upper airway during sleep.


There are differences between paediatric obstructive sleep apnea and adult sleep apnea. While adults usually have daytime sleepiness, children are more likely to have behavioral problems. The underlying cause in adults is often obesity, while in children the most common underlying condition is enlargement of the adenoids and tonsils.


Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent complications that can affect children’s growth, cognitive development and behaviour.


Why Snoring In Children Should Never Be Ignored.

Snoring in children is the clearest symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea in children, a condition which presents differently in children when compared to adults. Even though sleep apnoea affects middle-aged men more than any other demographic, it is often undetected amongst children.


And that’s quite surprising when you consider that between 3 and 12% of children snore, and 1-3% of children have obstructive sleep apnoea.


If your child is going for dental checkups every six months, your family dentist probably has the best opportunities to inspect and screen your child for sleep apnoea.

What Are The Causes Of Sleep Apnoea In Children?

Sleep apnoea is common in children who have swollen, infected tonsils and adenoids, but it may also be caused by allergies and developmental defects. 


Examples of developmental defects may include

  • Narrow air passages
  • Low muscle tone in the mouth or upper airway
  • Under-developed maxilla (upper jaw)

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnoea In Children?

The symptoms of sleep apnoea in children may present slightly differently to adults. Adults tend to put weight on because of the hormone fluctuations that take place. By contrast, children are more likely to present with poor physical development and may struggle to put weight on.



During sleep, signs and symptoms of paediatric sleep apnoea might include:

  • Snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Restless sleep
  • Snorting, coughing or choking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Night-time sweating
  • Bedwetting
  • Sleep terrors

Infants and young children with obstructive sleep apnoea don’t always know. They might  just have disturbed sleep.


During the day, children with sleep apnoea might:

  • Perform poorly in school
  • Have difficulty paying attention
  • Learning problems
  • Behavioural problems
  • Weight gain physical problems
  • Sleepiness and fatigue during the day
  1. When to see a doctor/dentist

As you may have observed many of these symptoms overlap with other conditions, or may have been misdiagnosed in the past. A thorough examination and monitoring is required to ensure an accurate diagnosis is made, and a sound treatment plan is developed. Managing sleep apnoea early on can help to prevent the development of chronic health conditions later in life including development of the face and jaws.


Make an appointment with your child’s doctor/dentist if your child consistently wakes up in the morning feeling tired and has behavioural problems.


It is important to have a discussion with your family doctor;  dentist or ENT.



Epworth Sleepiness Scale

Please complete the questionnaire first before continuing with the Stop Bang assessment.



Stop Bang

Please complete the stop Bang assessment after you have submitted the ESS questionnaire.