When you think of sleep apnea and C-PAP machines, you think of adults, and many times overweight adults. But did you know children can have sleep apnea. And it can really take a toll on their little bodies.
4-year-old Anya O'Connor loves to draw pictures. And she loves her mom and dad, who adopted her from Southern China when she was just 14-months old. "We adopted her with cleft lip and palate," said Bill O'Connor. For Bill and Melody O'Connor, that wasn't a problem. They knew a surgery would fix the issue and give Anya's life new promise. But after that was fixed, another concern surfaced. At night when Anya was sleeping, loud snoring could be heard from her room. "To the point where if we had company staying, their like 'wow, who is that snoring quite so loud upstairs.' And we would say that's our little Anya," said Melody O'Connor.
Doctors ordered a sleep study. Anya was hooked up to machines and she and Melody spent the night at the hospital. "Honestly, I slept with her that night, in the sleep study, and I thought 'well, it was a really good night of sleep for us'," said Melody. But doctors say it wasn't. Anya was diagnosed with sleep apnea after waking up hundreds of times that night. "34 times in an hour," said Melody. Anya wasn't getting the deep REM sleep the human body requires. "We need to sleep, and we need a good quality deep sleep. And your brain's constantly deciding between breathing and sleeping all night long. And it's going to pick breathing," said Kerrie Motley.
Anya was fitted with a sleep apnea machine. "Third night she was wearing it all night long," said Melody. "She falls asleep real quick. You put it on her and she's out within just a few minutes it seems like," said Bill O'Connor. Anya is finally getting rest and reaching that deep REM sleep every night. How does family know? She's not as tired during the day. Her behavior is not as difficult some days. And, "We noticed she started coming down when she woke up in the mornings wanting to draw pictures and telling us all about her wonderful dreams, because she hadn't really dreamed before because she hadn't reached that REM sleep," said Melody.
Now, Anya's story is not rare. There are many children who may have sleep apnea and would benefit from wearing a sleep apnea machine at night. Respiratory Therapist Kerrie Motley says signs of possible sleep apnea include: snoring at night, being tired during the day, not dreaming, memory issues and even poor grades may be sign. If you're concerned about your child, talk to their doctor. There are C-PAP machines for people of all shapes and sizes.
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