A child with Sleep Disordered Breathing (SBD) struggles to inhale enough air while he’s asleep. It gets worse when the child lies on his back (because gravity causes the throat to narrow even more), and a tot with SDB may often arch his neck and open his mouth in an attempt to get as much air in as possible. SBD can start as early as two years of age—when the tonsils and adenoids are growing fast—and go all the way through the teen years and adulthood. About 7 to 12 percent of young children have primary snoring (more than three times a week) caused by mild air blockage. But 1 to 3% of children develop severe blockage (90-100 percent) and experience apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, is sleep disordered breathing that gets so bad the throat closes completely and the child goes more than 10 seconds with absolutely no breathing. This can seem quite scary, but don’t panic!  If your child’s breathing stops for too long, he’ll wake up and start breathing again. Kids with SBD wake up when the blockage gets bad enough. They may startle awake with a snort or gasp dozens or hundreds of times each night! No wonder kids like Timmy yawn all day and get irritable, defiant, “hyper,” forgetful, and accident-prone. SBD also weakens the immune system, undermines learning, and can lead to high blood pressure and heart strain. Do you think your child might have SBD? Check with your doctor if he:

  • Sleeps with his mouth open

  • Snores or wakes with a loud snort

  • Has a nasal, gravelly voice

  • Drools on the pillow case

  • Breathes through his mouth instead of his nose

  • Has morning headaches

  • Resists swallowing food because it “scratches” on the way down

  • Has dark circles under his eyes

  • Is excessively sleepy

  • Has behavior issues

Obesity and SDB…A Vicious Cycle

Many kids with SDB are rail thin because they just have no appetite. However, many other kids with this problem are overweight. It is obvious that obese children have layers of fat right under their skin. But what we can’t see is that they also have thin ripples of fat deposited under the wet membranes at the back of the nose and throat. This fat can create a blockage, making it hard to breathe when a child is lying on the back. This obstruction—on top of the blockage from big tonsils and adenoids—keeps kids from getting restful sleep. And that’s a big problem because poor sleep can lead to even more weight gain as kids with SDB:

  • Get less exercise (because they’re tired)

  • Eat more (because fatigue makes them crave fats and sugar and lowers their impulse control…and they’re watching more TV and being tempted by all the junk food commercials)

  • Develop insulin resistance, causing increased obesity and raising the risk of diabetes

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