two kids with blankets pulled up over their faces sleep, one thinking about stress and the other snoring

Kids With Sleep Apnea and Behavior Issues

When they are in their deepest sleep, my kids, who are currently 5 and 7, have always been mouth breathers. Unfortunately, mouth breathing, coupled with snoring, behavior issues, irritability, and daytime sleepiness led me to their pediatrician to ask about sleep apnea.

Diagnosis decisions

After a sleep study on my daughter revealed slight, non-scary sleep apnea, I decided to skip the expensive, invasive overnight test for my son who is perhaps too young and dysregulated to endure a sleep study.

He has a less severe snore and slightly less severe behavior issues, anyway, so I am not overly concerned about his health as a result of his sleep. So now I know that both my kids have sleep apnea, but we’re not worried about them stopping breathing.

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Managing behavior issues

I am worried about their behavior issues. Both kids have diagnoses of ADHD and anxiety as well as sensory issues and are in their respective special education programs at school and preschool. We see a private therapist and occupational therapist. Both kids take medication daily. As a result of life stress, both kids have had a hard year and I’m in close contact with their providers and am often seeking support for them.

Our house is smoke-free and we manage their seasonal allergies. Neither kid needs their adenoids or tonsils removed and we don’t think a CPAP will be a good move at this time due to their age.

Is genetics a factor?

Additionally, it’s entirely possible that my kids’ behavior issues have nothing or little to do with their sleep issues. We have a family history of anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health conditions. Their diagnoses and challenges could be entirely because of genetics, not sleep issues.

Mental health is complicated

In fact, it’s possible the sleep issues are because of the behavior issues and not the other way around. How do we know the truth?

Sadly, there’s no real way to know. We’ve done genetic testing on them, but, when it comes to a complicated issue like mental health in children, there are far too many variables. Besides the genetic component, my kids may not sleep well because of environmental factors like their lives being upended by divorce and the coronavirus shutdowns.

Knowing that they have sleep apnea doesn’t actually solve any of my problems and does not offer a real, tangible solution.

Focusing on what I can control

So, what’s my next move? As frustrating as it is, I need to watch and wait. Their providers and I manage their health, both physical and mental, very actively.

I work hard to have good sleep hygiene with my kids and keep an eye on environmental factors that could impact their sleep, like allergies or congestion. We do our best to manage external stress due to school or family issues. We exercise and get fresh air.

I am an attentive parent and I love my kids. I have to be okay with that being enough at this point. As they get older, with the help of our pediatrician, we may decide to do more interventions, but, for now, all I can do is snuggle them and hope for the best.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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