Category: Sleep Apnea
Childhood obesity can create many health problems for children. Some health problems include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type II Diabetes, hip problems, depression and livers that are fatty and fail to function properly. Children can also suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Another health problem is the development of ear, nose and throat problems. Obesity can cause a child to develop sleep apnea and there may be a relationship to middle ear infections, as well.
It’s important to recognize the impact that overweight and obesity is having on the health of children because, despite programs that encourage exercise and healthy foods, the rate of childhood obesity in the United States has doubled over the last twenty years. More than 15 percent1 of children between the ages of 6 and 11 and more than 15 percent1 of those between the ages of 12 to 19 are overweight or obese.
During a recent office-based sinus surgery, the husband of my patient fell asleep in the exam room. She told me that he often falls asleep when he sits down. He was a bit embarrassed when we woke him but we assured him that he need not worry. I asked him if he is frequently tired during the day, to which he responded “Doc, I’m 70 years old. Of course I get tired!” His wife interrupted to add that they haven’t slept in the same bed for years due to his snoring. The interesting thing is that he is a hearing loss patient of BergerHenry ENT but never mentioned his daytime fatigue or snoring. We discussed a sleep study but he decided against it.
The word “apnea” literally means “without breath.” There are three types of apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. It is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. Central sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in the airway. However, in central sleep apnea, the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed sleep apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.
When left untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, weight gain, memory problems, impotency and headaches. Untreated sleep apnea may also cause job impairment and vehicle accidents. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Both medical and surgical options are available.
Pro Football Hall of Famer, Don Shula, has been hospitalized recently due to complications associated with sleep apnea (OSA). The Miami dolphins legendary coach has suffered from fluid retention likely related to sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a common condition. Studies in the 1990’s show that nearly 25% of middle-aged men and 9% of middle-aged women in the United States are afflicted with this condition. This number continues to escalate due to ever increasing rates of obesity. Furthermore, the prevalence of sleep apnea increases with aging. (1-3)
We mostly pay attention to adults who snore and have sleep apnea but little is written about children who snore or have sleep apnea. Last week, Philly.com posted an article titled Should I be concerned if my child snores? We thought the article made some good points and that it would benefit our readers. We add our own thoughts at the end.
Behavior Of Children With Higher Intellectual Ability Improves As Much As That Of Other Kids After Adenotonsillectomy For Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep disorders may go unrecognized in high performing children. Poor school performance is often a warning sign to teachers, administrators and parents of an underlying behavioral or sleep disorder. However, the warning signs of poor sleep can be ignored if a child is performing well academically. The symptoms of sleep apnea (OSA) can be easy to miss in children. While adults with OSA tend to complain of daytime fatigue, children may become hyperactive or irritable. This often leads to a misdiagnosis of attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder.
As sleeping disorder specialists, we were interested and saddened to read in ESPN Magazine this week about the thoughts of Larry Bird thinking he will die young due to atrial fibrillation which is “an abnormal heartbeat resulting from electrical signals being generated chaotically throughout the heart’s upper chambers.” With proper medication, exercise and diet, atrial fibrillation for Bird could be controlled, but he’s admitted that he doesn’t like taking medication but also has a skeptical view of his longevity anyway. As he put it, “You don’t see many 7-footers walking around at the age of 75.”
Others like him may share the same view. The article speculates that players over 6’ 7” may be subject to greater health risks than players (people in general) who are not as tall. The discussion got more intense after Moses Malone, a former Philadelphia 76er basketball player, died of a heart attack in September, 2015. Darryl Dawkins, another former Sixer, had also died of a heart attack just 2 weeks prior. There is not a lot of research connecting height and longevity but the discussion has begun.
Patients will often ask “what can I do to improve my sleep quality naturally?” Weight loss is often the answer given by sleep specialists. It is well established that certain behaviors are associated with poorer quality sleep:
- Weight gain
- Excessive alcohol use
- Poor sleep hygiene and sleep deprivation
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