At some point during this holiday season, Uncle Bob or Great Aunt Margaret are bound to sneak in a nap in front of the fireplace. You, in turn, will up the volume on the TV to drown out the “Zzzzzz.”
These relatives may not always have been snorers—chances are when they were kids they slept quietly. Adults who snore loudly may have obstructive sleep apnea and should be evaluated for this and associated problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems and daytime sleepiness. In adults, snoring is usually due to excessive weight gain. On the other hand, snoring in children is often due to recurrent colds that swell the adenoids and tonsils…which sometimes get large enough to block airflow through the upper airway (nose and throat).
Snoring occurs in children when adenoid and tonsil tissue block the airway during sleep. The muscles of the tongue and inside the mouth are relaxed during sleep. This partial blockage in the back of the throat causes vibration and noise (snoring) when breathing in and out. It tends to be the worse during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep when muscle tone is even more relaxed.
Snoring is common: up to 20 percent of children snore most nights. Mild intermittent snoring is generally nothing to worry about as long as breathing is easy (not strained) and rhythmic. However, it is a problem when the snoring and blockage is severe enough to cause obstructive sleep apnea. This occurs in about 1 percent to 2 percent of children. In this situation, the obstruction makes the child’s sleep so restless and fragmented that he or she does not get a good night of sleep. It may result in repetitive brief episodes of a lack of oxygen to the brain that wake the child from sleep briefly 30 to 60 times through the night!
Most parents (and teachers) know the look of a sleepy child: the toddler or preschooler who is cranky during the day or the school age child who has difficulty listening, sitting still and/or paying attention. If this sounds like your child, talk to your child’s health care provider about seeing a sleep specialist for a more complete evaluation. An overnight sleep study may be needed to accurately diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. Several very effective treatment options are available including nasal sprays, medication(s), breathing machines or having the tonsils and adenoids removed.
You can “rest” with assurance, the Children’s Sleep Center is here to help, so your child can have sweet dreams, good mornings and happy healthy days.