OSA in children

Symptoms of OSA in children

A child with OSA might show some or all of these symptoms:

Night-time symptoms

Common night-time symptoms

  • Snoring (although this is also fairly common in children with no OSA)
  • Pauses in breathing noticed by parents and carers, which might be followed by a gasp or snort

Other possible night-time symptoms

  • Gasps, snorts and choking sounds
  • Restlessness and sudden arousals from sleep
  • Laboured breathing
  • Unusual sleep posture, for example with the head bent backwards
  • Bedwetting (although this is common in children with no OSA)
  • Sweating
  • Breathing through the mouth, a dry mouth and bad breath

Daytime symptoms

  • Changes in behaviour, for example being irritable and having tears and tantrums
  • Hyperactivity, which may alternate with sleepiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor or decreased performance at school
  • Tiredness and sleepiness
  • Failure to gain weight or grow
  • Developmental delay – not reaching developmental milestones at the expected times
  • Learning difficulties
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Speech that sounds nasal
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Early morning headache
  • Parents report that a child with OSA might seem to pick up illnesses more often than other children, and then might have difficulty shaking off infections


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Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.