Many children snore when they have a cold, especially if they sleep on their backs, however if your child regularly snores, it may be a symptom of something more serious, and should not be ignored.
Why Do Children Snore?
One very common reason that children can snore is if their upper jaw is underdeveloped as this can result in a smaller airway that is more easily blocked during sleep. This is because the lower jaw drops backwards during sleep, resulting in the tongue being pulled in the same direction. The tongue can partially block the airway, leading to a child snoring or frequently gasping for breath while asleep.
Should I Be Concerned if my Child Snores?
Yes, as healthy children should not snore. Unless they have a cold, snoring in children is a clear indication that the airway is partially obstructed and is called Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB), which if not treated leads to Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) in adult life. It can result in low levels of oxygen, a condition known as “hypoxia”. Interruptions in breathing during sleep may lead to chronic illnesses, including hypertension, heart problems and strokes and insulin resistance.
What are the Symptoms of OSA?
In children younger than five years, symptoms include breathing through the mouth, sweating, restlessness and waking up frequently during the night.
Children older than five tend to experience hyperactivity, poor academic performance, hostility, bedwetting, slow growth, short attention spans, and they may sleep in unusual positions (sitting up, legs crossed or slumped over a pillow).
Additional symptoms may include:
- Snoring continuously
- Episodes where breathing stops completely before your child gasps for breath
- Enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Frequent headaches
- Behavioural problems
- Sleep walking
My Child Has Difficulty Concentrating at School, Could This Be linked to Their Snoring?
Yes, as studies have found children who snore are more likely to perform poorly at school, often due to a lack of good quality sleep that makes it very difficult for them to concentrate fully.
What about Other Problems Such as Bed-Wetting?
Bed-wetting or nocturnal enuresis occurs during sleep and is common amongst children with sleep apnoea or other conditions that make it difficult for them to breathe freely through their nose. It is thought a lack of oxygen could decrease the production of an anti-diuretic hormone, affecting the smooth muscles of the bladder. It has been shown that restoring a child’s ability to breathe while sleeping can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of sleep apnoea, including nocturnal enuresis. This can often be achieved through expanding the upper jaw as a narrower upper jaw can restrict the airway.
Will Treating Mouth Breathing Help Snoring?
If your child breathes through their mouth then their jaws may not develop properly, obstructing their airway and causing snoring. Mouth breathers often have small upper jaws, and early intervention to expand the jaw can enable proper jaw development, treating their OSA and improving facial appearance. In addition, mouth breathers are often more susceptible towards tonsillitis, colds, sore throats and other infections. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can often make it difficult for a child to breathe through their mouth. Diagnosing and treating the reasons for mouth breathing can eliminate symptoms such as snoring and will help enable your child’s jaws to develop normally.