Sleep apnoea is a medical condition in which children have difficulty breathing when they are asleep. During sleep, muscles around the airway relax causing the throat and upper airway to narrow. This leads to snoring and can also lead to the airway being blocked. Trying to breathe against a blocked airway causes oxygen levels to fall and carbon dioxide to rise.

The blockages tend to be intermittent because the brain triggers a movement or awakening that re-opens the airway. These brief awakenings can significantly disturb sleep. Obstructive sleep apnoea is common and affects between 1 and 3% of children.

Causes of Sleep Apnoea and snoring in children

The most common cause of childhood sleep apnoea is an enlargement of the tonsils and adenoids.

Treatment for sleep apnoea in children

Children with enlarged adenoids and tonsils should be referred for tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. This successfully treats sleep apnoea in 80-90% of children.