Teenage Behavior Changes: Is It Sleep Apnea?

Dentist in Calgary Serving Northwest, Downtown, and Nearby Calgary, Alberta


Tracking someone’s behavior changes is something we often do without realizing it. Phrases like “you’re not acting like yourself,” or “someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” come to mind. But it can be much more difficult when you’re trying to analyze a teenager. Their fluctuating hormone levels can make it hard to tell when something is off. What’s causing their change in behavior? Could it be sleep apnea?

What Exactly Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes a person’s breathing to stop and start while they’re asleep. The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when the muscles in the throat relax and restrict airflow causing sleep to be interrupted.

People living with sleep apnea wake up regularly throughout the night as a result of these airway obstructions and interruptions in breathing. In addition to the dangers of not breathing normally, the regular sleep cycle interruptions can have their own consequences.

Sleep and Behavior

Take a moment to consider how you feel after a poor night’s sleep. Grouchy? Irritable? Easily frustrated? Maybe not after one bad night, but now multiply that by multiple consecutive nights. 

Sleep gives our bodies time to rest and recover from the day. Many of our bodies’ regulatory processes are rooted in phases of the sleep cycle. When we consistently go without a full night of uninterrupted sleep, we risk becoming sleep deprived. The effects of this trend can lead to irritability and other conditions such as:

  • Impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attentional difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aggression

Because many of these symptoms are already commonplace in a lot of teenagers going through puberty, it can be hard to determine if they’re a sign of something more harmful like sleep apnea. This challenge makes it even more important to be aware of the potential for sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea.

The Difference Between Sleep Apnea and Snoring 

Sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea might seem indiscernible from snoring but there are some ways to identify a larger problem.

  • Loudness: usually the louder the snoring, the greater the cause for concern. Snoring is never good since that sound is produced by the vibration of the soft tissue in the throat.  This vibration leads to elongation of the tissue over time and makes it easier for it to close off the airway.  Healthy breathing is quiet.  
  • Frequency: if your child snores more than three times a week, even without other symptoms, it’s recommended that they receive an evaluation
  • Abnormal noises: sounds like gasping, snorting, and choking may demonstrate that your child has to work extra hard to breathe

Scheduling a Consultation

For more information on sleep apnea, you can schedule a consultation with Dr. Schick by calling our office at 403-407-5730.


*all procedures performed at our practice by a general dentist