Snoring among children is not normal
09 October 2020
Many people think that children who snore during sleep is because they are getting a good night's sleep after a day filled with activities.
In fact, some parents feel that the situation is normal and not worrying – but the fact is snoring among children is not normal.
Studies have shown that snoring occurs in 12% of children worldwide between the ages of one to nine, and can interfere with their behaviour.
Sunway Medical Centre, Consultant Paediatrician and Respiratory Paediatrician, Dr Norzila Mohamed Zainudin said the problem occurs due to several factors, namely when the airways become narrow during sleep.
“Snoring among children is not normal. It may occur due to sleep apnoea which can adversely affect not only the child’s health but his or her growth process.
“It is normal for the respiratory tract to narrow during sleep as long as it does not interfere with sleep. However, significant narrowing can cause sleep apnoea.
“That is why children snore and gasp for air while sleeping,” she said.
Children are usually awakened from sleep when extreme narrowing occur, causing oxygen levels to drop due to air being unable to enter.
“Chemoreceptors or stimulus cells in the body detect a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood, causing the child to wake up to breathe and thereby allowing the oxygen level to return to normal.
“In some cases, the child will wake up many times due to the decrease in oxygen levels in the blood. This causes the child's sleep to be disturbed, causing them to feel sleepy in the morning and not having enough sleep,” she explained.
Tonsils, obesity among the causes of snoring
Dr Norzila explained that the cause of snoring among children is due to three things, namely the swelling of tonsils and adenoids causing them to have difficulty breathing through the nose.
This is a common cause of snoring besides the formation of the face since birth that can cause the airways to become smaller.
“We can usually see this uneven and small face formation in Down Syndrome children. Their small face in the chin or maxilla area causes the upper respiratory cavity space to narrow, causing them to snore and experience sleep apnoea.
Obesity is also a cause of sleep apnoea where fatty tissue narrows the airways. Snoring is then caused by vibration in the tissues.
Hyperactivity, difficulty in focusing due to disturbed sleep
Clearly, snoring among children should not be left alone because it causes children to feel tired and lethargic due to frequent waking.
“This affects their cognitive ability and hence affecting their lessons,” she said.
Parents should be aware that lack of sleep in this early age affects the child’s ability to concentrate, which can turn into hyperactivity to fight drowsiness as well as irritability.
Snoring can be treated
Dr Norzila explained that if snoring occurs due to large tonsil and adenoid problems, it can be treated by removing these tissues through surgery.
Sleep apnoea problems are usually resolved after surgery. However, in cases caused by obesity or cranial facial abnormalities, patients may require Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment.
This machine puts positive pressure during sleep, where the pressure opens up the airways and prevents the airways from narrowing or ‘collapsing’.
Parents should pay attention to their children when they see any changes in their children.
“When a child’s snoring does not stop and occurs frequently, do not think it is normal and get an examination immediately because it can pose a risk to the child’s physical and mental health,” Dr Norzila said.