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My child snores – should I be worried?

Posted 6/13/2016 by CAROL ROSEN, MD
Medical Director, Pediatric Sleep Center, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Carol Rosen, MD

Carol Rosen, MD

You may be surprised if you hear the sound of snoring from your child’s bedroom. Yet it is not unusual – about 10 percent of children snore regularly. In many cases, childhood snoring is no cause for concern. But snoring can sometimes be the sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can cause serious medical problems if not treated.

Why little ones snore

My child snores – should I be worried?

Snoring occurs when air cannot move freely through the back of the mouth and nose. This can cause the tongue, soft palate and uvula to vibrate, resulting in snoring. Causes of snoring can include:

  • Large tonsils or adenoids. These enlarged lymph nodes are common in children and can be a risk factor for sleep apnea.
  • A stuffy nose from allergies or a cold.
  • Being overweight. This can cause excess tissue in the neck that relaxes during sleep.
  • Having a long uvula or soft palate. These structures can vibrate during relaxed breathing.

Signs of sleep apnea

“About 1 to 3 percent of children who snore have sleep apnea,” says Carol Rosen, MD, Medical Director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “This is a condition that causes pauses or reductions in breathing, lowers oxygen levels and disrupts sleep quality.

Sleep apnea in children can affect attention, behavior, learning and quality of life. Over time, untreated sleep apnea can lead to higher blood pressure, growth problems, inflammation and heart remodeling.”

Here are some signs that your child’s snoring may be sleep apnea:

  • The snoring happens every night.
  • Your child makes choking or gasping sounds. These sounds may be worse when your child is sleeping on his or her back.
  • You hear pauses in your child’s breathing, and a “snort” sound when the breathing starts again.
  • Your child wakes often.
  • Your child tosses or thrashes during sleep, or sleeps in an unusual position.

Sleep apnea can also cause problems you might notice during the day. These include:

  • Unusual fatigue or tiredness, such as falling asleep at school
  • Problems paying attention or poor school performance
  • Headaches
  • Behavior problems or hyperactivity
  • Moodiness, crankiness or irritability

When to see a doctor

If your child snores and has any signs of sleep apnea, talk with your child’s doctor. If your child is diagnosed with sleep apnea, the doctor will talk with you about possible treatments.

“Treating sleep apnea will not only help your child sleep more soundly, but also help improve his or her overall health and quality of life,” says Dr. Rosen. “A good night’s sleep may even improve your child’s concentration, energy levels and school performance.”

Does your child have a snoring problem?

You may be interested in the Pediatric Adenotonsillectomy Trial for Snoring (PATS). The study will help us learn what the best treatment is for mild sleep disordered breathing, a condition in which children have snoring and breathing problems during sleep, but do not have apnea (stopping breathing during sleep).

Who may participate?

  • Children between ages 3 and 9 who snore during sleep
  • Children who have not been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea
  • Children who have not had their tonsils and adenoids removed
  • Parents and participants will be paid for their time, effort and study-related expenses.

Participants needed. For more information, call Heather Rogers at 216-368-0475. Please leave a voice message that includes your name and phone number.

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