Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in Children

  • If your child snores and has trouble breathing at night, it may not just mean that she’s a noisy sleeper. It could be a sign that she has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a common and treatable condition in which someone’s breathing is repeatedly blocked during sleep.

    Here are some basic facts about OSA:

    • Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by blockage of the upper airway in the back of your child’s nose or throat.
    • OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea. It affects about 2 to 5 percent of children, infants and teenagers.
    • OSA is sometimes caused by disorders that affect the structure of the jaw and face or the function of muscles.
    • The most common symptoms are snoring, gasping and noisy or difficult breathing during sleep.
    • OSA can also cause your child to be unusually tired, irritable or hyperactive during the day or to have poor school performance.
    • OSA is generally very treatable with airway pressure devices, surgery or other therapies.

    How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches obstructive sleep apnea:

    At Children’s, we treat children with obstructive sleep apnea through our Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, a team that includes pediatric specialists in NeurologyPulmonology and Developmental Medicine. Children whose sleep apnea is caused by enlargement of their adenoids and tonsils are also treated in the General Otolaryngology Program (ear, nose and throat specialists).

    Drawing on our extensive experience treating this disorder in young patients, we use a multidisciplinary approach to ensure the right treatment for your child's specific symptoms and circumstances.

    Our experts are leaders in developing strategies for helping children sleep well. Children's physicians see more than 3,000 children each year in our sleep clinics and laboratories and we treat children at locations in Boston, Lexington, Peabody, Waltham and Weymouth.

    Learn more about OSA from one of our doctors
    Dennis Rosen, MD, associate medical director for Pulmonology in Children’s Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, created this list of frequently asked questions about obstructive sleep apnea in children (PDF)

    Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): Reviewed by Eliot Katz, MD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011

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