Signs of Sleep Apnea in Toddlers

Written by melissa elizondo
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Sleep apnoea can be a tricky condition to diagnose. Many symptoms of the condition overlap with other conditions. Do not be alarmed if your toddler has one or two of these symptoms. Most likely, your toddler will have several or even all of these symptoms if she has sleep apnoea.


Many people associate snoring with sleep apnoea in all ages. Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnoea in toddlers. Sometimes, the snoring can be really loud, but it can also be a quiet hum. Just because your toddler snores does not mean that he has sleep apnoea. Snoring can also be caused by allergies or a cold. If your toddler snores consistently, speak to your doctor.

Daytime Behavior

Certain daytime behaviours can often be a sign of sleep apnoea. Toddlers with sleep apnoea are usually sleep-deprived. Look for signs of irritability, crankiness and frustration. Every toddler will show these signs at some point, but if these symptoms keep occurring, sleep apnoea could be to blame. Another symptom of sleep apnoea is falling asleep at inappropriate times. If your toddler is too tired to stay awake during her favourite activities, speak to your paediatrician.

Nighttime Behavior

Restless sleep can be a sign of sleep apnoea. If your toddler tosses and turns all night, try to keep track of how often it happens. Talk to your doctor if it is happening consistently and your toddler is showing other symptoms. Other nighttime symptoms include profuse sweating during sleep. Another concern is your toddler waking up choking, coughing, or even gasping for air on a regular basis.

Health Problems

If your toddler has sleep apnoea, he will likely have other health problems. She will likely have enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Your toddler may also have growth problems. He may not be growing as quickly as he should. This is due to the fact that he is not getting enough sleep for growth hormones to release. She might also have a hard time growing because she is burning so many calories working to breathe. In severe cases, sleep apnoea can cause high blood pressure and heart and lung problems.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step in figuring out if your toddler has sleep apnoea is a visit to your paediatrician. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) or a pulmonary specialist. Your paediatrician might also order a sleep study. If your toddler is diagnosed, your doctor might suggest removing his tonsils and adenoids. Oxygen may also be given to help make breathing easier.

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