Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea?

The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are sometimes difficult to detect in children. Children with OSA may not look sleepy, even if they’re not sleeping well. Symptoms of OSA can also vary depending on the child and the severity of the problem.

Common symptoms may include:

  • snoring
  • breathing pauses during sleep that last about 10 to 20 seconds and often end in a gasp, snore, snort or sigh
  • sleeping with the mouth open or neck extended
  • restless sleep
  • waking often during the night
  • sweating during sleep
  • tiredness, moodiness, irritability or hyperactivity during the day
  • difficulty waking in the morning
  • dry mouth or headaches in the morning
  • nighttime bed wetting that returns after months or years of the child being dry at night

If you think your child might have OSA, talk with your primary care provider. He or she may refer you to a sleep specialist for a full evaluation and sleep study.

What are the causes of obstructive sleep apnea?

OSA is caused by a blockage of the upper airway in the back of the throat. Common reasons for the blockage include:

  • enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids (spongy tissues at the back of the throat)
  • fat deposits around the upper airway due to being overweight or obese
  • allergies, asthma, sinus infections or gastroesophageal reflux
  • certain medical conditions, such as Down syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome
  • craniofacial conditions such as Pierre Robin sequence, Apert syndrome and Crouzon syndrome
  • neuromuscular disorders that affect muscle tone and function, such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy