In celebration of National Sleep Awareness Week, which was held in the beginning of March, sleep experts focused not only on the harmful effects of sleeping too little and ignoring your body's individual circadian rhythm, but they also opened up discussions about sleep disorders, focusing primarily on sleep apnea.
In an article published by Medical News Today, the focus was placed not on adult males (who are twice as likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea as adult women are), but on children and adolescents. According to the article, it's estimated that anywhere between 25% and 40% of children and teenagers suffer from a sleep disorder -- many of whom never receive a diagnosis at all -- and that anywhere from 2% to 4% suffer specifically from sleep apnea.
It's almost surprising that this sleep disorder occurs in children at all -- even though about 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and up to 4% of Americans have an undiagnosed case of the disorder, it rarely affects children; sleep apnea causes, like those of many other sleep disorders, tend to be linked to other health issues like diabetes, asthma, and teeth grinding (which often develop after a person has grown out of childhood). Additionally, sleep apnea can be exacerbated -- or even caused -- by other factors like stress, weight gain, certain medications (especially antidepressants), and poor sleep schedules.
Pediatric cases of sleep apnea aren't just unhealthy and frustrating for children, but can actually have long-term effects that carry well into adulthood. Although it's possible for children to "grow out of it," similar to how many young children cease experiencing night terrors or sleepwalking, there's no guarantee that this will happen.
And if you happen to be an adult now who is possibly suffering from sleep apnea, and you believe you may have suffered from an undiagnosed case ever since you were little, that's not such a crazy theory to bring up to your doctor.
The good news is that this is a very treatable disorder: CPAP masks and CPAP nasal pillows provide relief almost instantly, and the CPAP masks prescribed by doctors today can be custom-fit for comfort and portability. Even if you've been suffering from sleep apnea for years, it's possible to find plenty of treatment options -- and these treatments might just save your life.