Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is it possible that my son has sleep apnea?"
My son is having a lot of trouble sleeping. He is only 17 and just can't fall asleep at night, so he is very tired during the day. My husband has sleep apnea and his father does too. Is this what is wrong with my son too? Can you get sleep apnea that young?
Sleep apnea is a very common problem in our society. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most prevalent type, and seems to be caused by excessive soft tissue in the airway. During the day, this does not cause any difficulty due to the tone of the muscles keeping the soft tissue pulled back and out of the way. At night, however, when the muscles relax and the patient lies on his back, all of the extra soft tissue seems to fall back and obstruct the path of air into the lungs. This causes low oxygen levels, which can cause problems over time. The body responds by sending a signal to the person causing them to wake up countless times through the night to take a deep breath in. That's why sleep apnea patients often seem to hold their breath and then gasp deeply for a minute of two. In older adults, it tends to be more common among those who snore and are overweight, although this is not always true. In children, it can be caused by other issues, including tonsils. The best step to take is to have your child evaluated by a physician who specializes in sleep problems.
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