Can Sleep Apnea affect school performance in children?

Aaron Johnson

Did you know that sleep apnea is not just something adults struggle with? Children can have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep related breathing disorder. This disorder can cause a partial reduction in airflow in mild cases, or a complete cessation of airflow in more severe cases. Most parents or children can recognize this as snoring, or even witnessed apneas. Following this reduction of airflow is an oxygen desaturation, this will cause the brain to signal to the body to wake up from sleep to restore breathing back to normal. This can happen hundreds of times throughout the sleep cycle, causing excessive daytime sleepiness.

What is the Cause?

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common cause of Obstructive sleep apnea in children ages 2- 8 years old. Symptoms associated with enlarged tonsils and adenoids are snoring or noisy breathing, sore throat, painful swallowing, bright red tonsils, and mouth breathing.

How this affects Children

Children who have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea were shown to have lower academic grades, behavioral and developmental affects. A study supported by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) exhibited that no students with moderate to severe OSA had and “A” average, and 30 percent of the students had a “C” average or lower. This data was drawn from 163 child and adolescent participants.

Treatment options vary case to case and by severity, but if the child has frequent tonsil and adenoid infections the health care provider may recommend a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (T&A). This procedure removes both the tonsils and adenoids. A study showed that following a T&A; out of 1000 children 74% of uncomplicated patients showed no signs of OSA. This shows that atier a successful T&A on a qualifying patient OSA was significantly decreased. The American Academy of Pediatric guidelines for OSA treatment stated, “the earlier a child is treated for OSA, the higher the trajectory for academic and, therefore, economic success.”

If you wonder if your child has OSA, please talk with your Primary Care Provider or Pediatrician.

Editor's Note

Aaron Johnson works for the Sleep Department at Woodlawn Health.
Scroll to Top