Why is your child snoring?
What does it mean if your child snores? In adults, snoring can indicate issues with sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. It can be a sign of similar issues in kids, including ADHD, but snoring in kids is often dismissed as simply annoying and/or a phase. It shouldn't be.
People who snore - children and adults alike - often don't get enough deep and restorative sleep and that leads to cumulative sleep deprivation. For kids, whose brains are still developing, this can have serious consequences in learning and behavior. Sleep studies have indicated that kids who are chronically sleep deprived - young children through teenagers- have increased symptoms of depression, attention deficit disorder, obesity, and higher incidence of risky behaviors, and generally are not functioning at their potential.
Causes of snoring
Some snoring is a short-lived thing. If your child has a respiratory infection or it's allergy season, sleep - and how a child sleeps - can be a symptom of overall health. Perhaps simple treatment is in order - a visit to the pediatrician or regular allergy medication.
Some snoring, especially long-term snoring, can be attributed to anatomical issues: the chronic swelling of adenoids and tonsils for a variety of reasons can contribute to difficulty in calm breathing during sleep. One recent study in the medical journal Pediatrics implied that up to a quarter of attention deficit disorder diagnoses could be treated with removal of adenoids; the ADD symptoms were related to sleep deprivation. A year after adenoids and tonsils had been surgically, removed a number of kids showed no ADD symptoms at all! While such a treatment may not be appropriate for your child's situation, it's still a staggering idea.
In still other cases, obstructive sleep apnea is the issue - and it's a big issue in and of itself. Dr. Kevin D. Pereira says you may notice increased sleep apnea or respitory disturbances, such as snoring, when chldren sleep on their back. "The mean RDI [an index measuring respitory events that disturb sleep] rose more than 50% of the time when spent in supine (face upwards)sleep.
Treating sleep apnea is a more involved process, though well worth the time and effort. In my own life, I've seen treatment for sleep apnea truly turn lives around.
Whether your child snores all year round or only during high allergy seasons or in some other situations, don't dismiss it. If your child's pediatrician isn't responsive to your concerns, ask for a referral to a sleep specialist and possibly an ear, nose, and throat specialist. A full workup, and that may include keeping a sleep journal and a visit to a sleep lab with your child may seem like overkill - but is it really if your child's long term health, learning and functioning is at stake?
As we increasingly understand the need for and impact of sleep on growing brains, anything that affects sleep is not to be dismissed. Good, restorative and restful sleep is truly a gift. So if your child snores, don't dismiss it.