Sleep Apnea in Children: What You Need to Know in McKinney, TX

The Facts & The Statistics

Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout sleep. While a major risk factor for apnea is an increase in age, anyone can have sleep apnea, even infants. Approximately three percent of children have obstructive sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea in children is rare, it’s often undiagnosed, or worse, misdiagnosed.

It’s crucial to understand the causes and symptoms of sleep apnea in children so you can determine if your child would benefit from a sleep study. If they're diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can begin treatment right away.

Causes & Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children

The most common causes of sleep apnea in children are enlarged tongue or tonsils, obesity, certain neuromuscular diseases, and craniofacial abnormalities. Sleep apnea occurs for different reasons and the symptoms can affect the quality of life for you and your child. 


In addition to pauses in breathing and gasping for air, your child may experience a variety of symptoms at different ages, including:


Disruptive sleep with repetitive crying

Noisy breathing or snoring

Night sweats

Poor suck

Delayed development

Failure to thrive


Noisy breathing or snoring

Restless sleep

Neck hyperextended during sleep

Night sweats

Mouth breathing

Night terrors

Poor eating

Poor growth

Failure to thrive

Preschool-Aged Children

Regular, loud snoring

Mouth breathing

Restless sleep


Night terrors



Difficulty concentrating

Increased fatigue

Poor eating

Growth problems

School-Aged Children

Regular, loud snoring

Restless sleep


Sleep talking

Teeth grinding

Difficulty waking up in the morning

Morning headache

Poor appetite

Excessive daytime fatigue


Emotional instability

Learning difficulties

Get the Right Diagnosis

When your child isn’t getting quality sleep, they can experience many of the same symptoms that are linked to ADHD such as difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, and behavioral issues. As a result, sleep apnea is often misdiagnosed as ADHD. 

While the medication used to treat ADHD can mask a few of the symptoms, it won’t treat the underlying cause for your child's suffering. There are a variety of long-term health consequences associated with sleep apnea and it’s crucial to ensure your child gets a proper diagnosis so they can enjoy a fulfilling life.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea can be diagnosed with an at-home sleep study or in a lab under the supervision of a physician. Dr. Lawrence can help you determine which study your child would benefit from the most. Once you have a clear diagnosis, we can begin treatment right away.

At SleepRight McKinney, we offer a customized oral appliance that's similar to a mouthguard and worn at night. It works by gently shifting your lower jaw forward and keeps the tongue in a neutral position, thereby helping to prevent the airway from collapsing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How will untreated sleep apnea affect my child’s oral health?

When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a host of oral health issues like tooth decay, mouth ulcers, TMJ, and periodontal (gum) disease. If you suspect your child may have sleep apnea, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment at our McKinney office as soon as you can. When caught early, sleep apnea treatment can help prevent the development of certain complications.

How can treating sleep apnea benefit my child?

Sleep apnea makes it nearly impossible for your child to get the rest they need to face the day. Other ways in which sleep apnea treatment can benefit your child include:

  • Better quality sleep
  • Decreased risk of developing oral health complications
  • Improved behavior and mental health
  • Subsides daytime headaches and fatigue
  • Combats weight gain
  • Less interference with child’s development

How common is sleep apnea in children?

According to the Sleep Foundation, about five percent of children have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. However, researchers suspect sleep apnea is underdiagnosed in children, as many may receive a misdiagnosis of ADHD due to their similar symptoms.

It’s crucial to have your child undergo a sleep study if you suspect they may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Contact our McKinney office at (972) 542-9129 to schedule an appointment with Dr. McKinney. He’ll be able to assess your child’s situation and determine the best course of action.

Can a child outgrow sleep apnea?

Unfortunately, sleep apnea is a chronic condition, meaning it won’t go away on its own. Because anatomy usually remains the same after adolescence, children with narrow facial or jaw structures may continue to experience sleep apnea symptoms as they grow older. It’s best to schedule a sleep study if you suspect your child has sleep apnea to help prevent the development of serious oral and overall health complications.

Can sleep apnea affect a child’s development?

In some cases, sleep apnea may lead to developmental issues in children. They may experience difficulty paying attention or staying awake in school, leading to learning problems and poor grades.

Children suffering from sleep apnea may even exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity, such as difficulty remaining still and quiet, which may lead to social development issues. This is the reason why sleep apnea in children is often misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Sleep Apnea Treatment for Your Child

When your child experiences the benefits of a quality night’s sleep, you can too. Contact our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Lawrence by calling (972) 542-9129, and we’ll help you on your journey to a healthy night’s rest for years to come.