Tackling Sleep Apnea and School Performance in Children

Tackling Sleep Apnea and School Performance in Children

  • Sleep apnea affects 30% to 60% of obese teenagers.
  • Children suffering from sleep apnea may have trouble focusing at school.
  • Doctors recommend that teens sleep 8-10 hours per day.
  • More stories can be found at Insider’s homepage.

Children can have a difficult time sleeping. It may prove difficult for children with sleep disorders to return to school.

Insider spoke to Dr. Carissa Smith, Nemours Children’s Health’s Director of Preventive Cardiology. She explained that poor sleep and disturbed sleep could lead to decreased focus and fatigue during the day. She said that it can have a negative impact on school performance.

The American Heart Association said sleep apnea is common in kids and teens and may be linked to

high blood pressure
and heart-structure changes.

It added that obstructive sleep apnea affects 1% to 6% of all children and 30% to 60% of

adolescents, so it’s more common in youth than people think. These sleep disruptions can raise blood pressure and are linked with insulin resistance and abnormal lipids — all of which can harm cardiovascular health in later years.

Parents and teachers need to be aware of this.

“Maintaining a high index of suspicion for obstructive sleep apnea is important and can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment,” Baker-Smith agreed.

Vanessa Tomlinson, and her son Shane, live in Yardley. Shane was diagnosed with sleep apnea in school. “He was unable to concentrate and focus for a period of time, he was often very tired throughout the school day. He was lacking his ‘typical’ energy throughout the day, despite his fun-loving, charming personality,” Tomlinson agreed.

Tomlinson advised parents to trust their instincts and overcome sleep apnea. “Parents know their children best. If something doesn’t seem quite right, or you are noticing different behaviors, please do not ignore it. Consult your pediatrician, who can guide you in the right direction,” She said.

Baker-Smith stated that obesity and enlarged tonsils are risk factors for obstructive sleeping apnea. Baker-Smith urges parents to be aware of symptoms.

“Parents who suspect obstructive sleep apnea based upon habitual snoring (more than three nights per week), pauses in a child’s breathing while sleeping, and/or daytime fatigue, as well as difficulty focusing, should consider discussing these findings with their child’s pediatrician. In some cases, the pediatrician may refer for a sleep study, or if tonsils are enlarged and there is a concern for OSA, refer the child to an otolaryngologist,” She said.

Baker-Smith recommended that bedtimes be reset so children can get the recommended amount of sleep each night. This could prove difficult post-pandemic.

Her recommended duration of sleep by age group:

  • 1- to 2-year-olds should get 11 to 14 hours.
  • The recommended sleep time for 3- to 5-year olds is 10 to 13 hours.
  • The recommended time for 6- to 12-year olds is nine to twelve hours.
  • The recommended hours for 13-18-year-olds are 8-10 hours.

Teachers should also be aware of signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. Baker-Smith advised that teachers look for children who are unable to focus or stay on task or tired frequently.

“Teachers should bring to the attention of the child’s parent or guardian these concerns. Sometimes what may look like difficulties with attention and hyperactivity during the day may reflect the poor quality or inadequate sleep at night,” She said.

Tomlinson, a former teacher who was also a mother to a child suffering from sleep apnea believed in open communication. Each child’s teacher should be trained on the topic. Being proactive is key to being supportive on the journey to overcome sleep disorder.

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