Snoring in Young Children

The soft cadence of heavy breathing, that ear-splitting roof-shingle-flapping sound, even the whistle and twitter of cartoon characters; at some point you’ve been exposed to snoring. Maybe even YOU snore. Snoring is a pretty common occurrence, and not typically something to worry about. But, what if the snorer in your house is your child? Let’s talk a little more about snoring in young children.

Snoring in young children is normal, but can also be an indicator of a more serious problem like sleep apnea.

IS SNORING NORMAL IN YOUNG CHILDREN?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “many if not most children snore on occasion, and about 10 percent or more snore on most nights,” and “children who are three years or older tend to snore during the deeper stages of sleep.” Snoring in young children can be caused by anything from a cold or allergies, to a more serious condition such as sleep apnea.

While snoring can be more common in children ages three and up, the National Sleep Foundation states that “loud and regular nightly snoring is often abnormal in otherwise healthy children.” If a cold, allergies or respiratory infection are not to blame, snoring in young children might be caused by sleep apnea.

WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?

When we sleep, the muscles in our body relax; when the muscles in the throat relax to the point of airway obstructions and reduced air flow, sleep apnea is typically the culprit. The National Sleep Foundation states that “one to three percent of children not only snore, but also suffer from breathing problems during their sleep.” Breathing problems can be characterized by “gasping or snorting, waking up and starting to breathe again.” This pause in breathing can be disconcerting to parents, and make for restless nights for both parent and child.

Sleep for Kids lists the contributing factors to sleep apnea as “obesity, allergies, asthma, GERD (gastroenterological reflux disorder), an abnormality in the physical structure of the face or jaw as well as medical and neurological conditions.” If sleep apnea is to blame, your child can be exhausted and cranky from waking throughout the night. Over time, these sleep issues can create problems with mental focus, possibly leading to learning difficulties. According to Sleep for Kids,

Undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea may contribute to daytime sleepiness and behavioral problems including difficulties at school. In one recent study presented at the American College of Chest Physicians, children who snored loudly were twice as likely to have learning problems. Following a night of poor sleep, children are also more likely to be hyperactive and have difficulty paying attention…Apnea may also be associated with delayed growth and cardiovascular problems.

If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from sleep apnea, consult your physician. Sleep apnea can be treated; the form of treatment will depend upon the cause of your child’s apnea, but can include the removal of your child’s tonsils (tonsillectomy) or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure therapy (CPAP), involving a machine that increases the air pressure in your child’s throat (to prevent it from restricting or collapsing) by using a mask with forced air.

If your child snores regularly, remember that it isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. If you believe snoring is affecting your child’s sleep, consult your physician to rule out any underlying conditions that may be affecting sleep quality. If snoring is not the cause of your child’s sleep issues, please give me a call to see how I can help your family get a restorative and restful night’s sleep!

 

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