Can sleep apnea be the source of temper tantrums?
According to a grandmother in Florida, that was the case for her 6-year-old granddaughter.
The girl was arrested late last year after having a tantrum at school, a situation her grandmother attributed to sleep apnea.
Officials from the school were skeptical about the explanation and took the position that many individuals who suffer from sleep apnea do not have behavior issues.
But, according to Dr. Darin Ward, a Dallas, Texas, orthodontist, many children with sleep apnea do have behavior disorders.
“If you’re not getting enough sleep each night, you’re not going to be in a good mood, no matter your age,” Ward said.
In adults, fatigue from sleep apnea and other sleep breathing disorders can result in feelings of anxiety and depression.
“These things can also develop in children with a sleep breathing disorder like sleep apnea, along with behavioral issues like ADD, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and outbursts,” Ward said.
In many cases, children are labeled with a disorder and then medicated when the real solution is as simple as getting better sleep.
According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, about 22 million American adults and children are living with sleep apnea, many undiagnosed.
“When you think about sleep apnea, you don’t immediately think that kids can have it. The typical picture of the condition is usually middle-aged men,” Ward said.
An airway obstruction often causes sleep apnea. This obstruction is usually caused by the muscles of the throat falling down to block the airway or from the tongue falling back to block the flow of air.
“When the lower jaw is set too far back, the tongue sits further back, too, which means it can become an obstruction during sleep,” Ward said.
The signs of sleep apnea in children including snoring outside of illness, choking or gasping for breath, night terrors and nightmares, insomnia and restlessness, sleeping with their head tilted back, and frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate or bedwetting beyond potty training years.
Time. Two Children, Ages 6 and 8, Were Arrested at School in Florida. Police Say the Officer Acted Without Permission. 22 September 2019.
Miami Herald. It might not be a tantrum. Your sleepy child could be overtired. 20 March 2017.