By CBSMiami.com Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Sleep apnea is a condition we associate with adults. But the American Heart Association is warning the sleep disorder affects up to 6% of children and adolescents.

The American Heart Association said the quality of a child’s sleep and sleep apnea may impact blood pressure, heart structure and other heart health factors.

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“Having obstructive sleep apnea can be associated with higher blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, conditions like obesity and high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. When they occur in childhood, they do tend to track into adulthood,” said Dr. Carissa M. Baker-Smith, the director of preventive cardiology at Nemours Children’s Health System, who authored the statement.

Symptoms include snoring more than three nights a week, as well as gasps or labored breathing, and daytime sleepiness.

“Some of the kids who we’re seeing who may be having difficulty focusing and things like that during the day in school, you know, ask about their sleep. These are critical times in a child’s life when their brains are developing,” said Dr.  Baker-Smith.

And obesity in children is also a factor. As many as 60% of adolescents who are obese have sleep apnea.

Yareli Aguilar-Cielo has concerns about her son’s sleep.

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“He will always, always sleep with his mouth open. But he will breathe for a couple of seconds, and he’ll pause, and he’ll breathe again,” she said.

Jovany, who suffers from sleep apnea, said, “I just feel really tired.”

The 9-year-old had his tonsils out, and his sleep improved a little. His doctor also wants him to focus on lifestyle changes to get to a healthier weight.

“I feel like the tiredness does affect him a little bit. I just want the best and hopefully he can get the help he needs,” Jovany’s mom said.

She hopes with a good night’s rest Jovany will have better days.

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The American Heart Association recommends a sleep study for children and adults to diagnose sleep-disorder breathing.

CBSMiami.com Team