Snoring in children is a fairly common phenomenon that parents report. In one study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 6% of parents reported this problem in their children1.
Snoring occurs when the passages of air flow (nose, mouth, throat etc.,) are constricted or blocked due to various factors. The resulting vibrations of different parts in the air passage, when air is inhaled or exhaled, causes the snoring noise.
Sleep apnea is a condition that not only causes snoring but also interrupts breathing. This can be dangerous as it can pause breathing to stop for a few seconds, reducing the supply of oxygen to the body.
Symptoms (If you observe any of these symptoms, talk to your paediatrician immediately)
Often sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction. Called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), it is often caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
Tonsils are a small mass of tissue located on either side of the throat, towards the back of the mouth. Tonsils are visible to the naked eye if a child opens their mouth wide enought. Adenoids are also a small mass of tissue in the back of the nasal cavity and cannot be seen. When these tissues get enlarged, they block the air passage and cause OSA. When they fully block the passage, the sleeping child may not be able to take in a strong breath immediately, to overcome this block, thus causing interruptions in breathing and breathlessness.
OSA is usually cured by
Sometimes sleep apnea is caused by a neurological problem. Called Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), it is caused because the parts of the brain that control breathing during sleep, occasionally fail to trigger breathing. Because the sleeping child does not even attempt to breathe, breathing is interrupted. This is not very common.
1. Bhavneet Bharti, Prahbhjot Malhi and Sapna Kashyap, "Patterns and Problems of Sleep in School Going Children", Indian Pediatrics 2006; 43:35-38
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