Many people believe snoring is confined to older individuals, but in reality it can strike at any age. 1 in 10 children snore on a regular basis, and 2-4% of the pediatric population has a sleep disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea. This condition can over tax the heart and lead to serious health complications.
Is Pediatric Snoring a Cause for Concern?
Snoring is never natural; it’s the result of obstructed airflow in the nose and mouth. This can be caused by a number of different factors including bulky or relaxed throat tissues, enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, sinus blockages, and a deviated septum. This disruption in airflow causes the tongue, uvula and soft palate to vibrate together with each breath, causing the snoring sound.
Snoring often robs a child of the restorative sleep so crucial for their growth and development. When a child isn’t well rested he or she can experience daytime fatigue, which has been linked to learning problems and attention deficit disorders (ADD). They may be irritable, unable to concentrate, and have memory issues. Sleep apnea is especially troublesome; children with this condition stop breathing throughout the night as their airflow is completely obstructed, causing them to gasp for breath and choke. They awaken enough to resume breathing but rarely gain full consciousness, a cycle that repeats all night long and prevents them from getting much-needed REM sleep. If left untreated, this may lead to a number of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Treatments for Snoring/Sleep Apnea
Even if your child doesn’t have a serious condition like sleep apnea, snoring is still socially embarrassing, and often leads to increased urine production resulting in the likelihood of bed-wetting. At the very least, you’ll want to help your child avoid those types of embarrassing situations.
Treatment for snoring depends on the cause. If the tonsils and adenoids are too large and obstructing your child’s airflow, they can be removed surgically. Surgery to correct a deviated septum is another option. Oral mouth guards, which extend the jaw to promote proper breathing, may work for snoring or mild cases of sleep apnea. Nasal strips often help to keep the sinuses open. If your child has sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the best and most effective method of treatment.