Snoring is an issue that affects many adults but with children, snoring should not be ignored, as it can be a sign or symptom of something more significant than just noisy sounds at night.
Let’s take a look at the underlying issues that snoring may indicate and then discuss other symptoms to look for that make it clear it is time to bring your child to the doctor.
Snoring as a Symptom
When you hear a child snore, it is important to start with the fact that most kids don’t make noise when they are sleeping. By definition, when sleeping and noisy sounds or snoring occurs, this directly implies some for airflow limitation. When no real airflow is occurring for more than perhaps 5 witnessed seconds, apnea is a concern.
As the upper airways (congested nasal passageways, floppy soft palate, enlargted tonsils and adenoids, large base of tongue etc.) partially or completely collapse together during sleep, it affects the quality of sleep. The less oxygen that gets through, the more often a child must wake, which interrupts his/her sleep just to get a breath of air.
The more often a child wakes up, the less effective his/her sleep cycle is, and the more likely it is that secondary issues develop.
Chronic nasal congestion is another possible culprit when looking for the cause of snoring in children. If your child has allergies or has recently had a cold, snoring might be related to an obstruction in the sinuses. Yet if the nasal blockage is long term and persistent, it is more likely to be adenoid hypertrophy, or perhaps nasal turbinate enlargement as well.
When to Treat Snoring
There are many signs that it is time to bring your child in for an evaluation, but we most often see children when parents notice that they can hear their child snoring from outside his/her bedroom. The concern about loud snoring is that it is often paired with an inability to adequately move air (parents see their child not making breathing efforts or not moving the chest for instance). When a child has chronic apneic events, some of the more common signs might include:
- morning fatigue
- trouble focusing in the morning or a foggy disposition
- bedwetting (in older children)
In some cases, obstructive sleep apnea cases can mimic the symptoms of ADHD, as children have trouble focusing and difficulty controlling their behavior.
Sleep apnea can cause a buildup of Carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes several of the signs. These symptoms will often lessen throughout the day because subsequently as the children breathe normally, they will expel the CO2 and thus reduce the symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Don't expect to get an immediate diagnosis if the snoring is a recent event. About four or so months of persistent, loud snoring is the usual benchmark before treatment is sought. After all, some snoring after a cold or sinus infection is relatively normal and should stop within a few weeks.
Treatment Options for Snoring
If obstructive sleep apnea turns out to be the root cause of your child’s issues, very commonly the pediatric and ENT evaluations will find that the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged and blocking normal airflow patterns. If this is the case, typically tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery can offer virtually 100-percent success in clearing up the problem in children!
If you are concerned about sleep apnea in your child who is snoring excessively, then make an appointment with your doctor. An ENT evaluation can offer a diagnosis and treatment approach.