Our number one job as parents is to raise healthy, happy children who turn into healthy, happy, and responsible adults. But each of us is new to parenting with our first child, and even with the second, third, fourth, or fifth, each is different. Each child will have different things that make them happy, laugh, smile, sad, mad, and sick, which is just one of the many things that make parenting so hard.

Another thing that makes parenting hard is that you don’t know everything that could ail them. One thing that parents and doctors often overlook is pediatric sleep-disordered breathing (SDB). It’s a term that encompasses a range of sleep-breathing disorders, starting with light snoring and ending with severe sleep apnea.

Did you think sleep apnea was an adult male condition? Many people do. But the truth is that anyone can suffer from sleep apnea or conditions along the sleep-disordered breathing continuum: men, women, old, young, overweight, and healthy. Sleep-disordered breathing is not a picking condition. It can happen to anyone.

What is Sleep-Disordered Breathing?

While there are several conditions on the sleep-disordered breathing scale, having one doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll worsen. Still, it could.


Snoring is a symptom and condition along the scale that is readily overlooked because it’s so common in today’s society. “He snores just like his Daddy!”. It might seem cute, but it’s not because it indicates that your child is struggling to breathe. Snoring, in anyone of any age, is the sound of air rushing past sagging soft tissues in the airway. If these tissues were not in the way, they wouldn’t vibrate and cause the snoring sound.

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)

This syndrome lies between snoring and sleep apnea. Sagging soft tissues cause it, but it’s more severe than snoring but not as severe as sleep apnea. Be aware: if your child snores, it could merely be a symptom of something more significant like UARS.

Obstructive Hypopnea

This is when the airway is partially obstructed during sleep. It’s more severe than snoring and UARS but not severe enough to be sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This is the most severe type of obstructive sleep-disordered breathing. It’s when your child stops breathing throughout the night—sometimes hundreds of times! These pauses can last 10 seconds or much longer, depending on the severity of OSA. The soft tissues in your child’s airway sags and completely cut them off from oxygen until their brain awakens them to resume breathing. The result isn’t only oxygen deprivation but an interrupted sleep cycle which causes cognitive impairment, behavioral problems, and other issues.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is an outlier in pediatric sleep-disordered breathing because it’s not caused by airway obstruction. Instead, it occurs when your child’s brain doesn’t tell their lungs to breathe. This is most common in premature babies and much less common than obstructive sleep-disordered breathing.

Your Guide to SDB: Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

1. Does your child snore?

Remember that snoring could be the first step on a journey that leads to more severe problems, a light issue that doesn’t cause much disruption, or a symptom of a more significant issue. The louder the snoring, the more likely your child has a more severe problem.

2. Does your child breathe through their mouth during sleep?

Mouth breathing is a telltale sign of obstruction in the nasal passage. Now, of course, your child will mouth breathe from time to time when they’re sick or congested. But children with sleep-disordered breathing caused by a nasal blockage will breathe through their mouths while sleeping and sometimes even when awake.

3. Is your child experiencing daytime sleepiness?

Does your child “sleep” for 10 hours a night and still fall asleep during the day? That isn’t normal behavior for a child. Daytime sleepiness could indicate that they only get fragmented sleep due to SDB.

4. Is your child having behavioral problems?

Are you happy as a clam when you don’t get enough sleep? Your child isn’t either, which shows up as behavioral issues. Many times this can be misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD.

5. Have you witnessed stoppages in breathing while they sleep?

As parents, we watch our children sleep. If you have seen your child stop breathing while they sleep, set up an appointment with an ASAP Pathway doctor immediately.

Here is a handy quiz to help you determine if your child is at risk for SDB.

Management Guide for Sleep-Disordered Breathing

Management looks different for each child because the cause of their disordered breathing is unique to them. Management could be:

5 Ways You Can Help Your Child Through Management

If your child is working through sleep-disordered breathing management, we know how hard it is for you to watch while they struggle to do hard things. Here are some things you can do to help your child through management.

  1. Talk to your child about the importance of management often, using simple words and explanations. Use words and phrases they’ll understand.
  2. Explain what the management will be like with simple wording. Tell them how together we are working to make their breathing easier and better.
  3. Use praise and rewards when your child takes responsibility. Especially when working with myofunctional therapy exercises, oral appliance therapy, or CPAP, be sure to praise your child when they take matters into their own hands.
  4. If doing myotherapy, make the exercises fun! Anyone can benefit from functional exercises. Do then with your child!
  5. Optimize their sleeping environment. Sleep-disordered breathing occurs more heavily when your child is overtired or overstimulated. Turn off the TV two hours before bed, ensure their room is dark and quiet, and make sure they’re as comfortable as possible. Good sleep hygiene will go a long way in making sleep-disordered breathing management easier.
Find an ASAP Pathway Dentist and Help Your Child Today

If you’re worried that your child has sleep-disordered breathing, contact one of our ASAP Pathway doctors today. They can be your guide as you and your child work through management.

After starting management, your child will see improvement very quickly. They’ll be energized throughout the day, sleep well at night, behave, and avoid other symptoms. Your child will be happy and healthy again with SDB and sleep apnea management.

Check out our provider map to find a sleep dentist near you.