Although occasional snoring is common, approximately 10 percent of children snore most nights. Snoring is a noise that occurs while breathing in that causes vibration of the soft tissues in the throat due to a partial blockage of the airway. The loudness is determined by how much air passes through and the vibration rate of the soft tissues. ‘Primary snoring’ is defined as snoring that is not symptomatic of a more serious problem such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), frequently waking up from sleep, or the inability of the lungs to acquire sufficient oxygen.
Loud, regular snoring is usually a sign of a problem in an otherwise healthy child. While it can be a result of a cold or allergy, it could also indicate a more serious problem, such as OSA. OSA is a sleep disorder that leads to repeated pauses in breathing due to a complete blockage of the airway. Although the muscles relax during sleep, when they become too relaxed the airway can become narrowed or obstructed, and sufficient air cannot pass through. When the airway reaches an obstruction capacity, breathing stops for up to a minute, alerting the brain and sending signals to the body to wake up and resume breathing. These repeated awakenings mean the child may not get adequate sleep and is likely to be excessively sleepy during the daytime.
Frequent snoring commonly leads to sleep deprivation, and it can manifest itself as a behavioral problem. Many children who are excessively sleepy are rambunctious, moody and have difficulty paying attention, which may lead to an incorrect diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Children who snore or have nighttime breathing disorders are between 40 and 100 percent more likely to display symptoms of hyperactivity by age seven, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics in March, 2012.
Nighttime symptoms of a sleep breathing disorder such as OSA include:
- Loud snoring on a nightly basis
- Pauses, gasps and snorts in breathing
- Heavy nighttime sweating
- Sleeping in abnormal positions
Daytime symptoms include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or falling asleep at inappropriate times
- Behavioral, academic or social problems
- Difficulty waking up in the morning
- Daytime headaches
- Moodiness, particularly irritability, agitation, aggression and grumpiness
- Regular mouth breathing
Common reasons a child may have sleep apnea include:
- GERD (gastroenterological reflux disorder)
- Physical abnormalities in the structure of the face or jaw
- Neurological conditions
- Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
Treatment for Childhood Snoring
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children should be screening for snoring in order to make a diagnosis of normal, primary snoring, or OSA.
One of the most common reasons a child would have a sleep-breathing disorder or OSA is due to large tonsils and adenoids. Swollen tonsils may block the airway which can make it more difficult to breathe, especially at night. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that more than 263,000 American children have tonsillectomies every year, many as a treatment method for OSA. The National Institutes of Health is set to release research this year of their Adenotonsillectomy Study which determines the effects of surgical removal of the adenoids and tonsils in 400 children.
Sometimes an overnight sleep study can determine whether a child has primary snoring or a more serious nighttime breathing disorder.
To learn more about treatments for snoring in children, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.