Snoring is often thought to be an issue which affects only adults, but anywhere from 3 to 12 percent of all children snore most nights. While the majority of these children have what is referred to as “habitual snoring”, anywhere from 3 to 5 percent of these children suffer from sleep apnea.
What Is Habitual Snoring?
Habitual snoring is snoring which happens on a regular basis and isn’t the result of having a cold or allergies. This type of snoring can be caused by many factors, such as a nose or jaw abnormality, though it is often hereditary for habitual children snorers.
Some common causes of habitual snoring include:
- Poor throat and tongue muscle tone: The relaxation of the throat and tongue muscles causes the tongue to fall back and block the airway.
- Obstructed nasal passages: This may be due to a deviated septum or nasal polyps.
- Bulky throat tissue: The throat tissue may be bulky (often the result of being overweight) which then blocks the airway.
- Long uvula or soft palate: This can narrow the opening from the nose to the throat.
Is Habitual Snoring the Same as Sleep Apnea?
A habitual snorer may suffer from something known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Those who suffer from OSA will often experience long interruptions in their breathing, wake up repeatedly from their sleep (although they may be unaware of it), and they may subconsciously sleep more lightly in order to breathe better.
As a result, those with sleep apnea often have higher blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues such as an enlarged heart.
How to Tell if My Child’s Snoring Is a Problem
It can be difficult for a parent to be able to properly assess when their child may need a medical evaluation. A snoring child does not always need medical attention or treatment, but if your child is displaying one or more of the following, further medical attention may be beneficial:
- Your Child Suffers From Night-time Sweating
Night-time sweating is the result of your child’s “fight or flight” instincts. When your child’s body is facing low oxygen levels, their sympathetic system goes into overdrive as it fights to breathe against an obstructed or closed airway.
- Your Child Is Obese
An obese child is at a significantly greater risk of suffering from OSA. Recent data has found that obese children have a 46 percent prevalence of OSA in comparison to healthy weight children.
- Your Child Sleeps In Odd Positions
Your child may position themselves in ways where they can extend their neck forward or upwards in an effort to keep the airway open. You may also observe an inward movement of your child’s rib cage and breastbone as they struggles to draw in air.
- Your Child Complains Of Headaches
If your child is regularly waking up with headaches, it may be due to snoring. Headaches are the result of your child having low oxygen levels and an elevated blood pressure while asleep.
- Your Child Regularly Wets The Bed
Bed wetting has long been associated with snoring in children. One study published in 2012 revealed that there is a link between primary nocturnal enuresis and habitual snoring in children who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
- Your Child Is Inattentive Or Has Been Diagnosed With ADHD
Children who suffer from sleep apnea are often misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The medical journal “Sleep” published a study in 2013 which revealed that children with sleep apnea had a six times greater risk of presenting symptoms similar to ADHD at school, such as poor performance and acting out.
Another study observed preschoolers between the ages of two and three. It found that 35 percent of habitual snorers (compared to 10 percent of non-snorers) were at a greater risk for worse overall behavior.
- Your Child Sleepwalks Or Suffers From Night Terrors
If your child is sleep walking and/or suffers regularly from night terrors, then sleep apnea maybe to blame. A study published in “Pediatrics” in 2003 found that the majority of sleep walking children who suffered from sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and received treatment stopped sleep walking once their SDB was treated.
- Your Child Suffers From Pediatric Hypertension
High blood pressure in children who are under the age of ten is typically caused by another medical condition, including poor sleep hygiene.
- Your Child Has Down Syndrome
Children with Down Syndrome are more likely to develop OSA because their upper airway is chronically obstructed. When left untreated, one study found that a child may suffer from a variety of problems including pulmonary hypertension and insulin resistance.
How Can I Treat My Child’s Snoring?
Lifestyle changes may go a long way in reducing your child’s snoring. You can make improvements to their diet, encourage exercise, and eliminate their exposure to second-hand smoke.
Many children who suffer from OSA also have large tonsils and adenoids, or they may have structural issues regarding their jaw, face and/or throat. In these situations, it is likely that your doctor will recommend having the tonsils and adenoids removed (adenotonsillectomy) or another procedure to alleviate the symptoms of OSA.
If your child is not a candidate for surgery, then devices made to treat OSA such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and specially designed mouthpieces may be able to improve their breathing at night.
Exploring Your Mouthpiece Options
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