For years, research into sleep apnea, a serious condition in which sufferers momentarily stop breathing while sleeping, has focused on adults.
However, Saara Markkanen, A specialist in the Department of Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) at the University of Tampere focused his recently completed dissertation on sleep apnea in children aged two or three.
Among adults, the condition can affect significant health risks such as high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, depression, among others.
In children, sleep apnea can cause behavioral problems, poor school performance and cardiovascular changes, Markkanen explained.
Markkanen said that 1–5 percent of children in this age group suffer from sleep apnea.
One of the key symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring, a condition that is much more common among adults, and about 17 percent of men and nine percent of women suffer from it.
A little snoring OK
Markkanen said that it is normal for children to snore sometimes, for example during upper respiratory infections or when they sleep in a bad position like in a car.
"But if a healthy child snores at least three times a week, it’s not normal" Markkanen said.
Previous studies have shown that sleep disorder has been linked to developmental changes in the face and jaw. Markkanen said that such changes were also observed in young children.
Children about two or three years old with the disease were found to have a slightly narrower upper ventricle than children who did not have sleep apnea, he explained.
Because such changes in facial structures can also lead to a permanent state of sleep apnea into adulthood, Markkanen explained.
The expert said that if a child snores regularly, the matter should be discussed with a doctor.
The most common cause of sleep apnea in children is dilatation of the tonsils, while tonsillectomy is the most common treatment.
Markkanen’s dissertation "Sleep disorders, respiratory hypertrophy and dentofacial development in children," is scheduled to be studied on Friday at the Medical Faculty of the University of Tampere, and is part of a broader study of children ‘s sleep.
Source: The Nordic Page