Sleep apnea–partial or total obstruction of breathing during sleep–is an increasing, and largely unrecognized, health problem. Sleep apnea is not just annoying to bed partners, but has enormous negative effects on our hearts, causing early heart disease, heart attacks and heart failure. Sleep apnea is associated with mood disorders, depression and cognitive dysfunction. Sleep apnea is responsible for many motor vehicle accidents.
When we think sleep apnea, we think loud snoring. We think obese. We think short, thick neck. We don’t think of kids (in whom people think snoring might be “cute” or normal). And we certainly don’t think of tall skinny kids with long necks who cannot breathe at night and sometimes when they run around during the day.
In children, large tonsils and adenoids are to blame in most cases (why these tonsils and adenoids become enlarged has consumed much of my academic research life, but is beyond the scope of this post). In some children and adults, being overweight can increase the risk of having sleep apnea. But that’s not all there is to it, unfortunately. Read More