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Sleep is possibly the most crucial element to a child’s development. It plays a huge role in ensuring they grow up healthy and fit. In fact, according to doctors, sleep is so crucial that a lack of sleep can result in
- anxiety disorders
- a decreased rate of learning
- immune system issues
- a deteriorated heartrate
- Anger problems
- Lack of impulse control
- Frequent irritation
- ADHD(Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
- Information processing disorders
- Mood instability
- A weak metabolic rate
All these symptoms are discussed in detail here. A child’s sleep cycle should be maintained under any circumstance, but it is important to remember that it differs according to age. For instance, a new born may need anywhere between 12-16 hours of sleep where as a teenager may require just 7 hours of sleep. There are a number of things that can impact the quantity of sleep like increased screen time before bed or stress, some of these issues could be medical like insomnia.
A key point to remember is that the quantity of sleep alone is not a deciding factor; sleep quality is also extremely crucial. If your child sleeps for the required time but still isn’t rested this could be a sign of sleep disorders, the quality of sleep is measured by how well your child sleeps and how deep that sleep is, on average a normal adult hits a REM cycle at least 6 times in one night but a child should reach the peak of their sleep at 8 REM cycles at the minimum.
One of the most common and ignored sleep disorders is snoring, while it may sound cute on your child, snoring could be a sign of a much deeper problem.
What Is Snoring?
Snoring is a condition that occurs when the structures of your respiratory system begin to vibrate, this condition is due to the obstructions caused to your body’s airways, the vibration leads to audible sounds reverberating through the air passages of the body, these sounds can be soft, but is often quite loud and can be heard by a person close by. Snoring is one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation and is considered a symptom of another condition called obstructive sleep apnea which is explained later in this article.
There are two kinds of snoring, habitual and symptomatic. Habitual snoring is when it is sustained over periods of time and is not due to external effects, while symptomatic snoring is due to changing external conditions such as weather, and can come and go. Although symptomatic snoring is harmless from time to time, habitual snoring is harmful. Over sustained periods of time, the condition can affect the overall health of your child and lead to serious problems. Consistent snoring should not be ignored in either adults or children.
How Common Is Snoring In Children?
Symptomatic snoring is extremely common in children, their immune systems and organs aren’t fully developed yet which can cause symptomatic snoring, usually when the weather changes or they have a cold. Habitual snoring, according to research, affects roughly 12% of people and could be a sign of anything from asthma to sleep apnea.
What Causes Snoring In Kids?
There can be numerous causes for snoring in children, some of them are:
- Asthma – A condition that hampers the ability to breathe, asthma can be one of the main reasons for your child’s snoring. If your child is snoring, wheezing and has a cough it may be a sign of asthma. Please visit your doctor at the earliest as asthma, if left untreated can become fatal.
- Influenza – Some types of flu cause obstructions along the airway, leading to symptomatic snoring. This will cure itself as the body begins to heal.
- Deviated Septum – A deviated or damaged septum could hinder the flow of air through your child’s nose and hinder breathing. This could cause snoring.
- Weight – If your weight of your child is disproportionate, it can cause sleeping disorders like snoring because the fat could obstruct airways.
- Tonsillitis – Enlarged tonsils could swell up and block airways, this is possibly the most common cause of snoring in children.
- Allergies – Most allergies can block the nasal airways and inflame the inside of the nostrils. Severe allergies can even cause swelling in the throat. Allergies are one of the most common causes of snoring in children.
- Neuromuscular Disease – Due to the organs slowing down during sleep, nerves that control respiratory muscles can go haywire and this can cause snoring. Most neuromuscular diseases are not life threatening but some of them may become fatal.
- Genetic Disorder – Some genetic disorders can be the cause of snoring, and could be passed down from generation to generation. Some of these disorders are even known to skip generations. Keeping a family history of illnesses can help narrow down the cause of snoring due to genetic disorders.
- Passive Inhaling of Smoke – Smoking around your child could lead to numerous risks. Second-hand smoke can be extremely dangerous especially for children. One of the known side effects is snoring and breathing difficulties caused due to snoring.
- Sleep Apnea In Children – A condition mentioned quite often here, sleep apnea is when airways block your child’s breathing which may require them to wake up and force themselves to breathe during the nights. Often, if the sleep apnea is minor, your child may subconsciously be forcing themselves to breathe and as such expending more energy, this could cause them to snore and it is also a reason for your child waking up tired. Sleep apnea is also known to cause numerous problems like depression, anxiety and if serious enough could even lead to ADHD.
The symptoms of snoring in children can vary greatly and depends on the age and physical development of the child, talking to a doctor is recommended if you notice your child waking up tired or fatigued as that is one of the most common symptoms for sleep apnea in children, here are a few of the symptoms for snoring that parents should look out for at different age groups.
In Young Children
Some of the most common symptoms for snoring in young children are:
- Feeding Problems – The failure to feed sufficiently among breastfeeding or bottle-feeding children could be due to snoring or even sleep apnea. It is recommended that you consult a specialist for an accurate diagnosis as feeding issues could also indicate a number of other problems.
- Delay or Failure in Development – One of the most common indicators of snoring is the delay or failure for a baby to hit their developmental milestones. This is because the quantity and quality of sleep plays an extremely important role in the development of the child in both a physical and mental sense. The delay in meeting these milestones due to snoring could also be a symptom of a larger underlying problem – sleep apnea.
- Weight Gain – A symptom of snoring in young children, irregular weight gain could possibly be the most harmful sign. If your child puts on too much weight too fast or struggles to gain any weight, they may be caused due to unhealthy snoring and sleep apnea.
Note: The symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea in young children can vary on a case by case basis, to better understand if your child is suffering from either of these, and to get an accurate diagnosis done for your child, please visit your doctor and if recommended, have a sleep study done.
In Older Children
The following are some common symptoms of snoring in slightly older children:
- Attention Issues – Due to the lack of enough sleep or the deteriorated quality of sleep, your child could have trouble focusing or paying attention. This is a common sign of sleep apnoea and snoring.
- Hyperactivity – A child who has inferior quality of sleep or lack of enough sleep can try to keep themselves present and awake by forcing themselves to become hyperactive. The lack of sleep also releases a chemical imbalance that works in cohesion with adrenaline to keep your child too active and then burn them out. This could be a sign of snoring.
- Aggression – The lack of sleep can exhaust your child, and fatigue is commonly a reason for aggression. If your child is aggressive or easily irritated, this could be a sign of sleep deprivation and the root cause could be snoring.
- Personality Changes – Sleep deprivation can cause personality changes, if your child’s personality begins to change overnight, this could be due to overlooked sleep issues like snoring and sleep apnea.
Diagnosis of Snoring in Kids
Doctors can diagnose most sleep-based disabilities and disorders by performing a sleep test, this test involves placing ECG like nodes on your child’s body while they sleep and connecting them to a computer, this will record their sleep patterns, REM cycles and how often they wake up during the night and how this impacts their sleep cycle.
Another test done to evaluate your child’s lungs and airways is known as a pulmonary function test, this involves your child placing a pipe in their mouth, breathing in through their nose and out through their mouth, this test measures the overall pulmonary strength or lung strength and evaluates if there is any congestion in their airway.
Risks and Complications of Childhood Snoring
There are various possibly dangerous issues that could affect your child due to their snoring. Some of these risks could lead to the need for long and protracted medical care. Here are a few risks of snoring:
- Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea could be a cause for snoring but it could also be caused because of it, this condition can make breathing very difficult at night and force your child to wake up numerous times at night in gasps, if the snoring is very heavy and your child wakes up in the night on a consistent basis it may mean that your child is developing sleep apnea.
- Nightmares – Snoring decreases your child’s oxygen saturation which could cause a portion of their brain to experience a chemical imbalance that leads to nightmares. Nightmares for extended periods of time could hurt your child psychologically for years to come.
- Fatigue – Snoring indicates your child needing to use excess energy to breathe, this energy loss during their sleep could exhaust them long term and throughout the day.
- Impaired Recovery – If your child’s snoring is bad, the body doesn’t get the rest it needs to recuperate, this could result in extended time spans for recovery from illnesses and injuries.
- Developmental Disorders – The lack of oxygen during sleep is extremely dangerous as sleep is a key portion of the developmental cycle for your child, this means they cannot develop normally due to the lack of oxygen which could then harm their overall life both short and long term, developmental disorders could both be physical and mental.
- Cardiovascular Health – The heart slows down when you sleep, combine that with good oxygen saturation during sleep and this ensures that it recovers and rectifies any issues the organ may have accumulated throughout the day, sleep is crucial for your heart’s health, snoring impairs sleep and can lead to cardiovascular abnormalities long term.
- Organ Health – Much like the heart all your organs except your liver and kidneys recover when you sleep, snoring hinders that recovery due to the extra energy spent on breathing, when you snore you activate all your organs in order to force a breath, this delays the recovery time for each organ, the oxygen saturation being lower when snoring also plays a key role in organ deterioration.
Other risks could be case specific for your child, talk to a paediatric specialist for further information on how your child’s lack of sleep due to snoring could be causing conditions and illnesses specific to them.
Is Your Child’s Snoring Normal or Sleeping Disorder?
It is important to distinguish that not all snoring is considered dangerous or a sleep disorder, the systematic snoring of a child is considered normal due to the weakened immune system and under-developed organs, this kind of snoring only occurs when there is an external change such as the weather or your child having an illness, this should dissipate quickly, soft snoring is also not considered too dangerous for your child though it is still recommended that you see a doctor.
To diagnose your child’s snoring as a sleep disorder, the snoring must be loud, progressively louder or sustained over a continuous period of time. It should be un-impacted by external sources or other illnesses that are known to block airways.
The best way to diagnose your child’s snoring is to see a specialist and have them do a physical and run some tests. It is recommended that your child has a sleep test done by the time they turn 10.
Signs your Child’s Snoring is a Problem
If your child encounters any of the risks mentioned above or any of the following, it could indicate that their snoring is a problem.
- They wake up tired
- They cannot wake up
- Their energy levels are down when they are awake and throughout the day
- They are scared to go to sleep
- They wet the bed
- They cannot perform chores they used to before
- They cannot pay attention to events around them
- They have bags under their eyes despite sleeping for a sufficient amount of time
- They have rapid mood swings
It is recommended that you talk to your child’s specialist for more information on identifying if your child has a problem due to their snoring.
Treatments For Kids Snoring
Snoring isn’t always treatable as a condition, there are, however, things you can do to help alleviate or treat snoring under controlled situations:
- Sleep Mask – Commonly used to treat sleep apnoea, this mask allows your child to breathe as it regulates the oxygen and eases ventilation trouble.
- Balms – Using balms like Vicks can help ease nasal congestion for children who have colds and fevers, this can ease snoring.
- Septum Surgery – This is a procedure to correct a deviated septum to clear the nasal airway passages, during the surgery they may clear your child’s sinuses if they are infected, this should help cure snoring if caused by a deviated septum.
- Inhalers – If there is an issue with your lungs like asthma, bronchitis or other breathing disorders, your doctors may prescribe inhalers, these could be a combination of salbutamol and anabolic steroids to clear the lung congestions. Inhalers are the most common way to treat bronchial and pulmonary disorders, this can help manage snoring if caused by the mentioned conditions.
It is important to remember that most child snoring solutions can be case specific, talking to a doctor and getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is recommended, do not medicate or diagnose your child yourself.
Some conditions that cause snoring can be treated at home without medication. Here are a few ways to treat your child’s snoring while avoiding medication:
- Steam – By either boiling hot water or using a steam machine, have your child take nasal steams before bed and after waking up, this can help clear their nasal passages. Adding essential oils like eucalyptus in the water can also have a soothing effect.
- Drinking Hot Water – Throat congestions can cause snoring; consuming hot water regularly can help dissolve the mucus in your child’s body which can help the snoring.
- Heat Packs – During winter, ensure your children are dressed well and tucked in to their beds, adding a heat pack on their chest and back can also help dissolve some congestive mucus and sooth their body. This is also believed to help relax their chest muscles which can combat the snoring to some extent.
Although there are numerous home remedies, it is recommended that you consult a physician before implementing any of them. Your doctor can examine your child and give you home remedies that may work better for your child specifically.
Tips For Preventing Snoring
Here are a few tips that may help you prevent your child’s snoring:
- Let them sleep on their side, sleeping on the back is known to aggravate snoring, if they already snore, sleeping on their side may help them breathe in a more efficient manner.
- Ensure they maintain their recommended body weight.
- Regulate their diet
- Ensure they hydrate sufficiently
- Take all prescribed medication to its full term
- Ensure they maintain positive airway pressure
- Ensure they exercise or play a sport
- Encourage them to swim. Swimming helps improve and regulate the pulmonary functions
- Dress according to the weather
- Maintain good hygiene
For more tips on how to prevent snoring, talk to your primary healthcare practitioner.
Sleep plays a part in regulating the metabolism and immune system, this also controls the health of your organs. Ensuring your child gets good quality sleep for a good amount of time is essential for their well-being, it is recommended that you talk to a sleep specialist and a pediatrician for an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.
If your child has sleep apnea, it is advised that you talk to your doctor before using any products that may play a part in their recovery, do not use sleep apnea masks or humidifiers without talking to your physician first.
Do not self-medicate or share your or your child’s medicines with anyone else. Treating sleeping disorders early is essential to ensure a healthy and high-quality life for your child, if the quality of sleep is bad it could lead to numerous issues like anxiety, depression, organ failure or even heart attacks later in life.
Although the issues may seem extreme, sleep deprivation can become extremely dangerous if left untreated for extended periods of time or if the wrong type of treatment is administered, this is why we recommend a specialist take the lead on treatment plans and procedures.
Be sure to ask the doctors questions and clear any doubts you may have, it is extremely important that you understand the cause and the treatment before implementing any changes in your child’s or your life.
Sleep apnea can manifest in anyone, child or adult. If you suspect this condition, talk to a doctor and have a sleep study done to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
Also read: Night Terrors In Toddlers & Children