Signs to recognize snoring conditions in children

Frequent snoring with other symptoms can warn of sleep apnea, affecting children’s behavioral health and learning ability.

Snoring is more common in the elderly, but can also occur in children. Not all snoring in children is created equal. The condition depends on the frequency, severity, and impact of snoring. Most of the time, snoring is small and short-lived with no negative impact on the person’s sleep or overall health. When snoring becomes more frequent, disrupting sleep, it can be a warning sign of a sleep apnea disorder.

Minor and infrequent snoring is common in 27% of children and is hardly a health concern. Frequent snoring without other symptoms affects 10-12% of children. Studies estimate that, 1.2-5.7% of children have obstructive sleep apnea. Among children with sleep apnea, about 70% are diagnosed with primary snoring.

Primary snoring (simple snoring or habitual snoring) occurs when a child snores more than twice a week but has no noticeable symptoms or associated health problems. On the other hand, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition in which the baby breathes continuously at night. Apneas occur dozens of times each night when the airways become blocked, affecting the amount of oxygen the baby receives during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea can cause sleep disturbances, impaired brain development, reduced academic performance, increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, altered metabolism, problems with behavioral issue.

Parents should monitor their children’s snoring symptoms to promptly take them to a doctor. Image: Freepik

The effects of obstructive sleep apnea have been studied mainly in older children, but scientists believe they also affect younger children, such as children 2-3 years old. Traditionally, primary snoring that did not develop into obstructive sleep apnea was considered benign. But recent studies show that this habit of snoring also has many health risks. Cognitive and behavioral problems were found to be more common in children with primary snoring than in children who never or rarely snore. Frequent snoring can affect the nervous system, negatively impacting heart health.

Although studies have found a link between snoring habits and health problems, the exact explanation remains unclear. Disturbances of sleep breathing, even if not obstructive sleep apnea, can cause minor disturbances that affect sleep quality.

In addition to the immediate effects on a child’s health, snoring can also affect the sleep of parents or roommates. If loud snoring can wake others up, leading to fragmented sleep, affecting mental and physical health.

Parents should take their child to see a pediatrician if their child snores with signs that include: snoring three nights a week or more; gasping or shortness of breath while sleeping; enuresis; bluish skin; morning headache; sleep during the day; difficulty concentrating; diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); below-average weight gain; fat.

Snoring occurs when air cannot flow freely through the airways at the back of the throat. When a child breathes in or out, the tissue around the airway vibrates, creating an audible noise. Many factors can cause airway obstruction, leading to snoring. Below are the most common risk factors for snoring in children.

Enlarged or enlarged tonsils and adenoids: The tonsils and adenoids, found near the back of the throat, are part of the body’s immune system. If they become larger or swollen because of an infection, the tonsils or adenoids can obstruct the airway, causing snoring. This is the most common cause of sleep apnea in young children.

Fat: Studies have found that overweight children are more likely to snore. Obesity can narrow the airways, increasing the risk of sleep apnea disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea.

Jam: Cold-like symptoms can cause congestion, blocking the flow of clear air, and an infection that can inflame the tonsils and adenoids.

Allergy: Allergic outbreaks can cause inflammation of the nose and throat, making it difficult for children to breathe, increasing the risk of snoring.

Asthma: Like allergies, asthma can inhibit normal breathing, which, when partially blocked, can lead to snoring.

Anatomical features: Some people have anatomical features that make it difficult for them to breathe normally during sleep. For example, a deviated septum, in which the two nostrils are not equally separated, can cause a child to breathe through their mouth, causing snoring.

Cigarette smoke: Secondhand smoke exposure can affect breathing, leading to a higher risk of snoring in children.

The air is populated: Low air quality or excess pollutants can make breathing difficult, leading to frequent snoring in children.

Chau Vu (Follow Sleep Foundation)


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