"We confirmed what others have shown," said Halbower of her study, published last year in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine.
Whether the damage is reversible or not is not known, Halbower said. She's continuing to study the problem.
Meanwhile, parents need to be alert to any symptoms of apnea in their children and seek help immediately, Halbower said.
What should parents look for? "Signs of disturbed breathing at night, including snoring, gasping, severe sweating, labored breathing, trouble sleeping at night," she said. "If they notice that, they should report it to their doctor and ask to have the child checked."
Other worrisome red flags, said Lewin, include the frequent need for a young child, under age 10, to sleep in. "Children who fall asleep other times other than their nap" should also be checked out, he said. "They might be sleep deprived or possibly have apnea."
Luckily, for most kids, a tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy can alleviate the problem. "If they can't get a surgical treatment, they should be on continuous positive airway pressure -- a mask they can wear over the nose to give them air to breathe," Halbower said.
"In general taking out the tonsils and adenoids cures about 75 percent of kids [with apnea]," Lewin said. For the others, the airway pressure can help, he agreed.
Whether they have sleep apnea or not, too many American children are not getting the right amount of shut-eye each night, new research shows.
For example, one recent study of 169 one- to five-year-olds, conducted by researchers at Brown University Medical School, found that most didn't get the 12 to 15 hours of sleep recommended for this age group.
The older children in the study
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