Loud, sleep-interrupting snoring may seem like an adult-specific issue, but children aren’t immune. About 20% of kids snore from time to time, and in most cases, there’s no reason to be concerned by the nighttime noises. But if snorting or gasping sounds accompany the snoring, it could be a sign of a larger issue: sleep apnea.
The condition, which causes pauses in breathing throughout the night due to the obstruction of airways, affects one percent to 10 percent of children. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart trouble, and poor growth, but luckily, there are a number of treatments available. One of the most common causes of sleep apnea in children is enlarged tonsils. If a doctor determines that this is what’s responsible for a child’s excessive snoring, he or she may surgically remove the tonsils. And because sleep apnea is more prevalent in overweight kids, a weight loss program could also help.If neither of these options is successful, doctors may recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This involves the child wearing a CPAP mask during the night, which blows air into the airways to keep them open, helping to end the snoring.
Talk to your pediatrician if you suspect that your child has sleep apnea. In addition to loud snoring, you may notice your child gasping for air during the night, tossing and turning, or sleeping in strange positions in an attempt to keep airways open. Signs of sleep apnea may also show up during the day. Children with sleep apnea often feel tired, since the condition wakes them from their sleep periodically throughout the night. In turn, they may have difficulty paying attention at school or be in an irritable mood. In fact, sleep apnea in children has been linked to a higher risk of depression and anxiety. The good news is that many kids outgrow sleep apnea, so talk with your doctor about which treatment method is right for your child.