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What Is Considered Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea & What Is A Normal Oxygen Level For A Child While Sleeping?

Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is a disorder that is linked to the upper airway constriction or narrowing. It is quite commonly seen in small children but, can happen to people of any age. If not treated promptly, it can lead to many dangerous complications and sometimes, even death.

What Is Considered Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea can vary from mild to severe. It is based on a system of measurement known as the AHI or apnea-hypopnea index. This system calculates the number of breathing breaks that you encounter per hour of your sleep.

  • Severe obstructive sleep apnea is the one with the AHI higher than 30, which means that you experience a minimum of 30 episodes per hour.(3)
  • Moderate obstructive sleep apnea indicates that you encounter between 15 to 30 episodes per hour or your AHI is between 15 to 30.(3)
  • Mild obstructive sleep apnea indicates that you experience between 5 to 15 breathing breaks per hour or your AHI is between 5 to 15.(3)

The severity of your obstructive sleep apnea and present symptoms will determine whether you need treatment for your condition or not and what treatment approach to be taken.(3)

What Is A Normal Oxygen Level For A Child While Sleeping?

The normal oxygen level for most children, while they are asleep, is between 97 to 99 percent. Sleep apnea leads to attacks of reduced oxygen supply to the different parts of the body, including the brain. The quality of sleep is poor, and it may result in daytime drowsiness. There may also be other symptoms including-

  • Difficult to treat and persistent headaches
  • Feeling of grumpiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Drowsiness
  • Reducing interest in sex
  • Swelling in the legs, if sleep apnea is severe(1,2)

In children, you may notice-

  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression that is progressive
  • Poor performance at the school
  • Loss of attention
  • Improper physical and mental growth and development
  • Failure to thrive
  • Heart problems
  • Death(1,2)

Risk Factors Related To Obstructive Sleep Apnea

If you suffer from any medical conditions that constrict your airway, you are at a greater risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. These factors may include –

  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids in small children
  • If your collar size is quite larger than usual it is in males
  • If your tongue is oversized
  • If your lower jaw is short than your upper jaw
  • If there is an airway that collapses easily or your palate is narrow
  • If you suffer from obesity
  • If there is a history of sleep apnea in the family
  • If you or your child have craniofacial abnormalities
  • If there is any neuromuscular condition(1)

Diagnosis Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • The doctor may ask you about your present signs and symptoms. He will also perform a detailed physical examination and will ask you about your medical history. He may order for a series of tests if needed.(5)
  • Your nose, mouth and the back of your throat will be examined during a physical examination. Your doctor may record your blood pressure and take your neck and waist measurements to see if you qualify as overweight or obese.
  • Sleep specialists may assess your condition and then plan your treatment accordingly. This may be done by an overnight watching of your breathing pattern.(5)
  • The tests used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea may include polysomnography and home sleep apnea testing.(5)


Obstructive sleep apnea is an airway disorder. When the upper part of your airway is constricted it leads to this condition. Obstructive sleep apnea can vary from mild to moderate to severe, depending upon the number of episodes that occur for one hour. Severe obstructive sleep apnea needs to be treated promptly to avoid any serious complications.


Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 24, 2020

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