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Dangers of Snoring in Children

Snoring is a common sleep-related respiratory disorder. Most adults snore at least infrequently. Infrequent snoring is generally a non-issue and becomes problematic only when severe. Snoring gets worse with age, and is seen increasingly in older adults. Severe snoring is “associated with cardio-and cerebrovascular disease as well as cognitive impairment.” But children are certainly not immune to the dangers of snoring. Consistency and quality of sleep are extremely important for children because of their developmental needs. If sleep is disordered during childhood, healthy development may be affected and negative mental and physical health consequences can follow the child into adulthood. Because quality sleep is vital for healthy development, parents should inform themselves about the causes of snoring, consequences of snoring, and possible treatments, to help their child avoid negative consequences.

Types and Causes of Snoring in Children

Due to issues related to healthy development, snoring in children should be taken very seriously, and promptly dealt with, if it begins to impact a healthy sleeping pattern of the child. But not all snoring has to necessarily be a cause of concern for parents of children who snore. How can we tell when snoring becomes dangerous for the healthy development of the child, or when snoring points to larger underlying health issues?

Snoring in children is not clinically divided into types. Instead, attention is given to the frequency of snoring to determine whether there should be a cause for concern. Generally, pediatricians list several signs to follow in regards to evaluating snoring in children. Snoring in children is usually an issue that quickly passes. As a rule, parents should become concerned if the child’s snoring does not stop and becomes habitual.

A pediatrician visit should be undertaken if the child is snoring more than three nights per week and exhibits one or more of the following signs:

  • Hyperactivity, even when the child appears to be tired
  • Behavioral issues, such as irritability, aggression, moodiness, crankiness
  • Daydreaming and excessive sleeping throughout the day
  • Difficulty with waking up in the morning despite sleeping throughout the night
  • Bed-wetting past the age of 9 years old
  • Learning difficulties and poor school performance
  • Growth retardation
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure

 

Causes can also vary and not all of them are dangerous. A child can snore infrequently if they are very exhausted and fall into a very deep sleep. An awkward sleeping position can also lead to snoring at times. A common cold is another cause for infrequent, non-habitual snoring because the airways are blocked with mucus, obstructing the airflow, and causing the child to snore. But these causes do not pose a danger to the child. This is why the rule of three nights a week has become a baseline for determining whether the child snores habitually or not.

What are the causes of habitual snoring in children? The most common issues of concern in habitual snoring in children are Obstructed Sleep Apnea (OSA), and Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB), which can both cause a decrease in oxygen levels and increase awakening throughout the night, causing the child to be unable to sleep, breathe, and consequently, unable to develop in a healthy way.

Consequences of Snoring in Children

Untreated OSA and SDB can have a significant impact on both, the physical and mental health of the child. In terms of mental health, children deprived of oxygen due to habitual snoring have been found to suffer from excess behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, depression, and attention issues. These problems with behavior can continue to affect the child into adulthood, affecting all aspects of their lives. Untreated behavioral issues may well develop into problems with social interactions, development of anti-social behavior, difficulty with keeping stable employment, introversion, personality disorders, and the inability to achieve a well-balanced lifestyle as an adult.

However, physical health problems stemming from habitual snoring in childhood are also extremely dangerous if left untreated. OSA and SDB are extremely serious medical conditions. There are many health complications that can occur, whether in a child or an adult. Untreated OSA can cause issues such as daytime fatigue, increased blood pressure, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, issues with medications, or liver problems. SDB is also associated with extremely dangerous health complications, including high blood pressure, strokes, coronary disease, neurobehavioral issues, heart failure, and premature death.

Clearly, snoring can point to the possible development of very serious health issues. It is therefore absolutely necessary to consult a pediatrician if there are concerns that a child’s snoring has become habitual in frequency. The earlier OSA or SDB are identified the better for your child going forward. And if your pediatrician finds no cause for concern, the peace of mind is definitely worth the visit.

Treatments of Snoring in Children

OSA in children is commonly caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids, in which case their removal is possible to treat the issue. Surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids can be an option. Surgery for OSA and snoring can also be performed. But surgery is not possible for every child and in case surgery is not provided for whatever reason, other steps are necessary to avoid the excessive negative consequences and complications caused by habitual snoring in children.

Another treatment is that the child sleeps with a nasal mask every night. The nasal mask is structured in such a way, that it delivers continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to the child’s airways, allowing for oxygen to float freely into the lungs to avoid oxygen deprivation. A pediatrician can also prescribe the child medications.

There are also some lifestyle remedies that can be undertaken. If the child is overweight or obese, it would be advised for the child to lose weight, as obesity increases their chances of snoring ad pediatric OSA and SDB. Parents can also make sure that the child does not come into contact with any allergens and irritants of their airways. This means that smoking should be completely avoided around the child and in the home, and allergens and pollutants should also be removed from the home. This can mean, for example, switching to organic cleaning products and personal hygiene products.