Loud snoring is a common occurrence among adults; about 45% snore occasionally, while 25% do so on a regular basis. Habitual snoring in children, however, is rare and can sometimes be a cause for concern.
Many factors contribute to snoring in children. Some are minor, while others could be life-threatening. Especially if snoring is repeated or severe, it may indicate a problem of disturbed breathing during sleep. The presence of frequent snoring can indicate that your child has poor sleep quality which may result in developmental issues such as decreased brain development, learning problems, and frequent negative emotions. Learn more about snoring in children and when snoring becomes dangerous.
What Causes Children to Snore?
Snoring in children may not always be due to a serious health condition. In fact, minor colds or allergic reactions may cause children to snore from time to time. Some causes of snoring in children include:
Large or swollen tonsils and adenoids: Found near the back of the throat, the tonsils and adenoids can become swollen or enlarged due to infection. This obstructs the airway and leads to snoring.
Obesity: Obesity can narrow the airway and increase the risk of sleep-disordered breathing such as obstructive sleep apnea.
Congestion: Cold-like symptoms can block the smooth flow of air and infection may inflame the tonsils and adenoids.
Allergies: Causes inflammation in the nose and throat, making it harder to breathe and increases the risk of snoring.
Asthma: Inhibits normal breathing and may cause partial blockage of the airway, causing snoring.
Birth Defects: Some people have birth defects that make it harder for them to breathe normally during sleep. For example, craniofacial disorders such as cleft palate or cleft lip, or a deviated septum.
Poor Air Quality: Pollutants such as secondhand smoke can affect normal breathing and lead to frequent snoring.
When Does Snoring Become Dangerous?
Snoring in children should be looked at as it can signify obstructive sleep apnea — a disorder caused by the repeated collapse of the upper airway during sleep, when the muscles supporting the soft tissues in the throat (e.g. tongue) temporarily relax and cause the airway to narrow or close, briefly cutting off breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea affects the amount of oxygen your child receives while he/she is asleep and has been associated with child development issues and other long term health problems such as high blood pressure.
Parents who are concerned about their child’s snoring should consult a paediatric ENT specialist to determine the source of the problem. Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate sleep-disordered breathing.
Snoring three or more nights a week
Sudden gasps or difficult breathing during sleep
Choking or snorting during sleep
Difficulty concentrating or learning
Frequent negative emotions
Repeated awakenings throughout the night
What Should Parents Do?
If you notice signs and symptoms of snoring caused by sleep-disordered breathing or suspect that your child may have obstructive sleep apnea, consult your doctor to see if snoring treatment is needed. For example, allergies may need to be treated and an adenotonsillectomy may be performed to remove the tonsils and adenoids, or positive airway pressure devices may be used to prevent obstruction.
Dr Jenica Yong and her team of medical staff utilise evidence-based medicine to provide comprehensive ENT care in Singapore for adults and children. Schedule your medical appointment with us today.