According to ear, nose and throat physicians, enlarged tonsils can cause obstructive sleep apnea in children—causing them to stop breathing repeatedly during the night resulting in sleep deprivation.
"If kids aren't sleeping at night it can affect their school work and mental development," says Stephen Landers, M.D., ear, nose and throat physician on the medical staff at Our Children's House at Baylor.
According to experts, thousands of children with sleep apnea caused by enlarged tonsils are sometimes actually misdiagnosed with learning disabilities.
"If children are allowed to sleep properly a lot of these behavioral issues are improved," adds Dr. Landers.
So how do you know if your child's ADD, ADHD or other behavioral problems may actually be caused by sleep apnea? Experts say to observe your child while they sleep at night. Are they snoring loudly or making gasping or snorting noises? These could all be signs of sleep apnea and should be brought to the attention of your family physician.
In adults, sleep apnea is often caused by excess weight, but in 90 percent of pediatric cases, it is caused by enlarged tonsils. Fortunately, a tonsillectomy can usually treat obstructive sleep apnea in children.