Updated: Nov 26, 2020
I screen every family I work with for possible underlying health issues which may be contributing to their sleep woes.
One question I always ask is about snoring. But why does it matter if your baby snores?
Regular snoring and noisy breathing are signs of disordered breathing during sleep or Obstructed Sleep Apnoea (OSA). We often associate sleep apnoea with overweight middle aged men, but it’s something that affects 1-3% of children (particularly pre-schoolers) in Australia! In some cases, snoring is benign, however, it should always be investigated further, at least for peace of mind.
OSA is a sleep related breathing disorder where there are repeated episodes of partial or complete restriction of airflow despite ongoing effort to breathe. This occurs during sleep when the muscles relax causing the soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapse and block the upper airway. This leads to brief or complete pauses in breathing.
The brain responds to the lack of oxygen (hypoxia) by alerting the body, causing an arousal from sleep to restore normal breathing. This pattern can occur multiple times overnight which results in fragmented quality of sleep.
There’s no immediate danger with OSA as the body is designed to protect itself and wake in order to continue breathing. However, if left untreated, the long term affects of OSA include learning difficulties, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes and depression.
OSA can be treated depending on the cause. Most commonly OSA is caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Other causes include obesity and chronic nasal allergies.
Signs and symptoms
· Regular snoring and noisy breathing during sleep
· Mouth breathing both during the day and while asleep
· Choking or gasping for air during sleep
· Restless sleep
· Unusual sleep positions like arching to extend the neck or the child propping themselves up with pillows
· Night sweats
· Daytime irritability, behavioural issues or difficulty concentrating
· Daytime sleepiness even if they appear to have slept well overnight
· Morning headaches
· Difficulty swallowing (this is a sign of enlarged tonsils)
Whilst a lot of these symptoms can be related to a variety of causes, snoring is NOT normal. So, if your child snores, arrange a visit to see an ENT. Ruling out underlying health concerns will give you the confidence to make changes to improve your child’s sleep.
One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x