Depression is an oft-overlooked side-effect of sleep apnea, and it can be especially dangerous to one of sleep apnea’s most oft-overlooked demographics: children.

Sleep apnea can cause depression in children

Sleep Apnea and Children

Upward of 3 percent of children are believed to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a recent Fox News report that examines the link between sleep apnea and depression in youth. A child’s risk for developing OSA is compounded if he or she is overweight, has asthma, or has a developmental disability such as Down syndrome.

Though sleep apnea is more common among adult males, it is likely underdiagnosed in children. Citing data from the National Sleep Foundation, the Fox report states that as many as 20 percent of children who snore may have sleep apnea.

A study into pediatric obstructive sleep apnea found that about 10 percent of children snore habitually through approximately their first decade of life. Chronic snoring is often associated with airway resistance, such as the obstruction that causes OSA, but as children develop physically snoring typically dissipates.

Sleep Apnea and Depression

Multiple factors are believed to influence sleep apnea’s role in depression. First and foremost, sleep apnea’s repeated breathing interruptions prevent regular, healthy sleep.

The cumulative consequences of insufficient sleep include daytime drowsiness, increased irritability, impaired concentration, and feelings of depression. Together, these complications can affect a child’s performance in school and increase his or her risk for suicidal thoughts.

The breathing stoppages also cause drops in blood-oxygen levels. This, in turn, impacts hormones that affect mood. Other sleep apnea dangers include a heightened risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Last year, a review of more than 20 sleep apnea studies demonstrated that sleep apnea treatment is effective in reducing depression symptoms. The most widely prescribed treatments are continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices and oral appliances.

CPAP delivers a continuous oxygen flow during sleep via a mask connected to a circulator. However, many patients find the masks uncomfortable and discontinue use, rendering treatment ineffective.

Oral appliances are form-fitting, custom-made mouthpieces similar to sports mouthguards. They are designed to fit each patient’s unique bite structure and promote an open airway during sleep.

In addition to these treatment options, certain lifestyle changes such as weight loss and increased physical activity can diminish sleep apnea’s harmful effects, including depression.

Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry has helped patients of varying ages find relief from sleep apnea and restore restful sleep. If you or a loved one experiences chronic snoring or nightly breathing interruptions, please call the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado at (303) 691-0267 to schedule your appointment and learn how Dr. Berry can help you.