Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a condition that describes the pauses in a child’s breathing during sleep.
OSA is a sleep disorder that causes children and adults to frequently pause their breathing during sleep. Breathing pauses (apneas) typically last 10 to 20 seconds and are caused by an obstruction in a child’s throat (usually enlarged adenoids or tonsils).
The pauses temporarily decrease the body’s oxygen levels. The brain senses the lower oxygen levels as a threat and “jump starts” the body again by waking up the sleeping child. The more frequent the pauses, the less sleep a child gets, which can lead to additional physical and mental health symptoms.
The main symptom of OSA is the pause in breathing. Children may sound like they are choking or gasping when they are asleep. They can also have difficulty staying asleep, which can cause extreme daytime tiredness and may also lead to other sleep disorders.
Additional symptoms for OSA may vary and come and go, including the following:
The main cause of OSA are enlarged adenoids (glands on the roof of the mouth that produce white blood cells) or tonsils (glands at the back of the throat that filter bacteria/viruses and prevent unwanted objects from going down the throat).
Enlarged or swollen adenoids or tonsils can block airflow through the mouth and nose. Obesity can also affect breathing and cause OSA.
Some factors can increase the chances of being diagnosed with OSA and can make the OSA symptoms worse, including: