How can I know if my child has sleep apnoea?

If one listens carefully to their breathing pattern, one may find that their child will snore and this will increase in intensity until a point where there may be a pause in their breathing.  This may then be followed by the child making a big grunt and perhaps arousing and turning over to find a more comfortable position. In more severe cases the chest seems to suck in  (sternal recession) or there may be a dip in front of the neck (tracheal tug) when they breathe in.

These are indications that there is obstruction over the airway and they are working hard to breathe. 

Some signs of sleep disordered breathing and sleep apnoea include the following:

  • being restless at night - trying to find a comfortable position.

  • may sleep with their neck extended

  • sweaty or hot when sleeping

  • drooling

  • often grumpy and slow in the morning 

  • tired during the day - not havingas much energy as other children and becoming easily irritated and fractious

  • younger children may have long naps in the afternoon sleeping for hours until being woken

Taking short video clips of your child's sleeping pattern, is very helpful for an ENT surgeon to assess the impact of noisy breathing on your child's sleep patten and whether there is indeed a degree of sleep apnoea. 

Some of these problems may simply be due to nasal obstruction due to allergies.  However, more often than not, the underlying problem is usually the effect of enlarged tonsils or adenoids.  The condition occurs more commonly in 2 to 3 year olds.