Children and Snoring: Should You Worry?

Child Sleeping CuteIt may seem cute when your little one snores softly in her sleep, but snoring isn’t always simply the stuff of adorable Youtube and Facebook shares. Though snoring can be entirely non-harmful in children, there are signs to watch out for. Here’s how to know when it’s time to take steps toward curing your child’s snoring.

My Child Occasionally Snores. Is it Normal?

First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that many healthy children snore occasionally, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Statistics show that approximately 10% of children ages three and up snore at some point during the night. And children who have allergies or who are currently ill – for example, with a cold or cough – may snore more than usual.

However, up to 3% of regular snorers may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a more serious condition than the occasional snort you may be hearing from your child’s room at night.

What Causes Snoring in Children?

The causes of snoring often match those found in adults, and include:

  • Allergies.
  • Asthma.
  • An overly-dry room.
  • Dehydration/not enough to drink during the day.
  • Congenital obstructions, such as large tonsils or excess tissue in the mouth or throat.
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD).
  • An illness, such as rhinitis or the flu.
  • Irregular sleep habits.
  • Overweight/obesity.
  • Lack of sufficient exercise during the day.
  • The child’s sleep position.
  • A non-supportive pillow and/or mattress that do not align the head and neck properly.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Can Children Really Have OSA?

Although statistically, fewer children than adults have OSA, it is possible for a child to have OSA, according to sleep experts.

How Do I Know if It’s Serious?

Signs to watch for include:

  • Restless sleep.
  • Very loud snoring, especially if accompanied by choking/gasping, and/or if the child’s breathing seems to stop for a brief period between snores.
  • Frequent wakings, especially if accompanied by gasping or choking sounds.
  • Excessive tiredness during the day, or in some children, hyperactivity.
  • A decline in grades/school work.
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing on tasks.
  • Memory loss/memory decline.
  • Irritability.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Lack of coordination; frequent accidents/falls/spills.
  • Frequent headaches.

Factors Associated With OSA

A statistical percentage of children with OSA may have:

  • Overweight/obesity.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Nightmares and/or night terrors.
  • Morning headaches.
  • Excessive sweatiness in an otherwise cool room/sleeping environment.
  • Chronic bedwetting.

Should I Take My Child to the Doctor?

Even if you do not suspect OSA, you should take your child to the doctor whenever you suspect any sleep disturbance. NEVER attempt to self-diagnose or self-treat a snoring child. Even if the snoring itself isn’t dangerous, there may be contributing factors that your doctor can uncover and treat.

Generally, a doctor who suspects sleep issues in a child will order a sleep study. A sleep study involves electrodes painlessly being attached to various areas of the child’s body, including the scalp, neck, back, chest and possibly arms and legs. Brain activity, heart and lung activity and other factors will all be monitored during the study. Although it can be difficult for a child to sleep under such circumstances, most children sleep at least a few hours during the sleep study, enabling medical observers to record the data they need in order for your doctor to make a diagnosis.

Most of the time, the child will be provided with a cozy, welcoming environment such as homelike bedding, low lighting, cheery wall decor and perhaps even a stuffed animal. Your child will probably be able to take a favorite “stuffy,” blanket or book to the study so s/he can fall asleep more easily. Depending upon your child’s age, you may be able to be in the bed with the child during the sleep study, which will help her relax.

After the Study

Following your child’s sleep study, you will be asked to await your doctor’s call with the results. Even if certain abnormal aspects are observed during the study, the technicians will not be able to reveal information to you. Don’t worry during this time; know that you’re doing what’s best for your child and that if any issues are discovered, there IS help.

If Your Child Has OSA

If OSA is diagnosed, there are a number of treatments your doctor may recommend, depending upon the reasons and contributing factors to the OSA. For example, if your child is overweight, her doctor may recommend an eating and exercise program that’s livable but will help her get control over this issue. If she needs one, a comfortable CPAP machine may be prescribed. Allergies or illnesses may be able to be treated with medications, inhalers, and/or a humidifier. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended. Generally, this is a last resort, especially in children.

A Good Night…Every Night

Your child’s health, happiness and even schoolwork and grades depend upon a good night’s sleep. Know that by investigating your child’s sleep and sleep health, you’re taking steps to make sure both her present and her future will be the best they can possibly be.