Pediatric Sleep Apnea and Dietary Changes
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), while a common condition in adults, also affects between 1% and 6% of children. It results when the back of the nose or throat is blocked during sleep – typically by the tongue, enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. In addition, certain medical conditions can cause sleep apnea, including a small lower jaw, a narrow oral or nasal cavity, muscular weakness or a small or collapsed airway.
Being overweight or obese places both children and adults at higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Even a moderate amount of weight loss can improve OSA, so a healthy diet and active lifestyle are important parts of your child’s treatment.
If your child’s airway is already small, narrow, or blocked by large tonsils and/or adenoids, his/her breathing problems can increase with weight gain.
A healthy diet – rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein and low in sugars and saturated fats – has many benefits and can help your child lose weight by improving metabolism and providing energy for regular exercise.
What to Expect
Changing your child’s diet may be difficult in the beginning, but it’s important to adopt healthy habits as a family.
Many parents don’t realize how much liquid intake can contribute to an unhealthy diet and weight gain. Children should not drink sugar-containing liquids such as soda, Gatorade, or even juice because these drinks have a lot of calories and are not healthy substitutes for water or fat free milk. Juice contains just as much sugar and calories as soda.
Studies have found that sleep deprivation and fatigue are linked to changes in hormones that regulate appetite, so children suffering from OSA may have increased cravings for carbohydrates, eat more, and feel less satisfied when they eat.
By encouraging your child – and your whole family – to consume a varied, healthy diet at home, you can help break this cycle of sleep deprivation and overeating and improve your child’s health.
How can I help reduce the severity of my child’s sleep apnea?
Follow your doctor’s recommendations for dietary changes to help your child lose excess weight that contributes to OSA.
What foods should I increase and reduce in my child’s diet?
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy protein is key to weight management and health. Try to reduce your child’s intake of refined carbohydrates (pasta, bread, sweets, soda) and unhealthy saturated fats (fast food, fatty meats, cheese, salad dressing). His or her primary liquid intake should be water and milk. Your doctor may arrange for you to meet with a dietician who can help develop a realistic diet plan with ideas for healthy meals your child will enjoy