Snoring is a common problem that happens to us all. This noisy breathing during sleep resembles the sound of vibrations or rattling noises, and can indicate a serious medical condition if not treated.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF),
“while you sleep, the muscles of your throat relax, your tongue falls backward, and your throat becomes narrow and ‘floppy.’ As you breathe, the walls of the throat begin to vibrate - generally when you breathe in, but also, to a lesser extent, when you breathe out. These vibrations lead to the characteristic sound of snoring. The narrower your airway becomes, the greater the vibration and the louder your snoring.”
Loud snoring or noisy breathing during sleep is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is when a child stops breathing during periods of sleep due to an obstruction in the airway. This obstruction may be caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
“Children who snore loudly and/or on a nightly basis should be seen by their pediatrician,” said Children’s National Medical Center’s Director for Sleep Medicine, Judith Owens, MD.
“Other signs suggestive of sleep apnea include breathing pauses, gasping, restless sleep, and sweating during the night.”
Although snoring is a sign of sleep apnea, most people who snore do not have it. Snoring can also occur with a common cold, seasonal allergies, a deviated septum, enlarged or swollen tonsils, or being overweight. The most recent guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
provide physicians with the following recommendations when presented with a snoring child:
- All children and adolescents should be screened for snoring
- Children with signs of OSAS should be considered for a sleep test
- Children with OSAS and enlarged tonsils are recommended to undergo an adenotonsillectomy, or an operation to remove both the adenoids and tonsils
- Patients under 3 years old are considered high-risk and should be monitored as inpatients postoperatively
- All patients should be reevaluated postoperatively to determine whether further treatment is required
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), or a breathing apparatus worn at night to open airways, is recommended as treatment if a child does not undergo surgery
- Nasal sprays are optional for children with mild obstructive sleep apnea syndrome
For questions regarding the newest guidelines outlined by the AAP, contact your pediatrician.