We mostly pay attention to adults who snore and have sleep apnea but little is written about children who snore or have sleep apnea. Last week, Philly.com posted an article titled Should I be concerned if my child snores? We thought the article made some good points and that it would benefit our readers. We add our own thoughts at the end.

First, let’s review the main points the article is making:
Child Snoring and Sleep Apnea

  • About 10% of children snore. You shouldn’t be overly concerned if the snoring is occasional (and doesn’t have obstructive sleep apnea symptoms). Snoring will occur because a relaxed child can experience a relaxed tongue that falls back creating a blockage
  • The causes of OSA in your child can vary from enlarged tonsils to enlarged adenoid glands
  • If your child does have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it is a more serious condition and you should consult your sleep specialist or ENT who will then examine your child’s growth, mouth, jaw, tonsils, adenoids, and nose. Be prepared for questions asking if your child snores more than 2x weekly, if your child finds it difficult to breathe or gasps for air at night, if your child prefers a seated position while sleeping, or if your child is tired during the day. If OSA is determined, a sleep study will assess breathing, blood oxygen levels, and brain activity while the child is asleep
  • It’s important for you to know that just because children snore, it doesn’t mean that they have obstructive sleep apnea. Of the 10% of children that snore, most do not have OSA. Their snoring is called primary snoring and all this means is that it’s not related to OSA.
  • However, if your child does have OSA, consequences of leaving it untreated can manifest, i.e., behavioral, social, and learning issues as well as daytime headaches, excessive weight gain, and ADHD symptoms
  • The last point the article made involved a University of Chicago study of public school children between the ages of 5 and 7 years. It was clear that those who only had primary snoring fared significantly better in attention, memory, judgment, and abilities than those who snored and had OSAS.

Additional Thoughts from BergerHenry ENT on Children with Sleep Apnea

  • OSA in children is more subtle than in adults. Most do not snore or stop breathing
  • Children may not exhibit fatigue but only inattentiveness and hyperactive behaviors
  • 25% of children with ADHD have sleep apnea – most of their learning and behavioral issues can be traced to poor sleep
  • Children with OSA can also be irritable, tired during the day, and be lacking in school. They can also wet their beds, sweat or be restless while sleeping, or sleep walk. Growth, especially in the face, jaws and teeth, can be compromised due to suppression of the growth hormone
  • Your child has an increased risk for sleep apnea if he/she is obese, has enlarged tonsils and adenoids or a nasal obstruction, or is of African American descent
  • Snoring and sleep apnea can be inherited – if you or your husband snores or has OSA, it’s possible that your child will also snore and/or have OSA
  • Sleep studies are not mandatory to diagnose sleep apnea in most children
  • The most common treatment for children with OSA and snoring is a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (removal of the adenoid glands)

For a more detailed description and explanation of snoring, sleep apnea and how it affects children, please visit our Snoring and Sleep Apnea page.