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Childhood Snoring. Is it Normal or Harmful?

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When you picture someone snoring, it’s probably an overweight male. While it is true that many adults snore, it may surprise you that many kids also snore! It may be common to think that a snoring child is cute. But the reasons for snoring can mean a serious risk to their health.

Snoring in kids is linked to sleep disorders, and it should not be ignored. Your kid’s overall health and appearance could be deeply impacted by snoring. Sleep disorders can cause your child to be tired at school, cause them to behave poorly and affect their mood. It can lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain and this can cause teeth grinding.

There are many benefits to dealing with your child’s snoring and teeth grinding. Sorting this out now – before they cause serious health issues – will a better chance. If your child sleeps with their mouth open or suffers from teeth grinding, it’s time to find the reasons for snoring.

What is snoring anyway?

The term snoring refers to the sound that is made when someone is breathing through a reduced airway. The reduced airflow is usually located between the nose and the voice box. Sometimes the sound can be soft, but other times it can be so loud that it disrupts the whole house. Snoring can be the first sign of a serious sleep disorder.

What are the real reasons for snoring in kids?

Snoring has many causes. It occurs because the soft tissue in the throat, palate and nose vibrate when a person breathes in and out. It can come from different parts of your airways. This can include:

  • Nostrils and nasal passages
  • Inner cheeks
  • Tongue and areas around tongue
  • Tonsils (the small glands located where the mouth and throat meet)
  • Soft Palate (the soft area at the roof of the mouth)
  • Uvula (the ball of tissue between the tonsils)
  • Poor dental development and crooked teeth (here's a kid's teething chart)

When all of these start vibrating, the sound can get very loud! During sleep, the airways and soft tissues relax and then narrow when asleep. This increases the pressure needed for air to pass through the airway, causing vibration. Obesity, swollen tonsils from allergies, a cold or seasonal allergies can also cause snoring. In adults, alcohol or serious weight gain can also increase snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.

Over time, snoring can get much worse. As the tongue and airway muscles continue to worsen and your child may stop breathing during sleep. These are called an ‘apnea’. For this reason, snoring in kids needs to be treated as soon as possible.

Are kids supposed to snore?

When some parents notice their kids snoring, they think it is common or even cute. This is a mistake – kids’ snoring needs to be considered a problem when first noticed.

Snoring that occurs for more than four nights in a row is called “habitual snoring.” Habitual snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea symptoms in kids.

If your kid is sick and has a blocked sinus, then some amount of snoring may be normal. However, if your child snores for more than a few nights in a row, it needs to be dealt with. Do not let this problem go untreated.

Snoring can harm kids dental health

Yes, snoring can lead to serious health problems in kids.

Sleep disorders can become really serious, even stopping air from entering the lungs. Sleep apnoea is an extreme example and can lead to severe health problems in adults and children.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) can lead to many chronic and serious illnesses.

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke and heart attack
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Snoring and improper breathing during sleep may also stop proper jaw development. Because of this, children who snore are more likely to need orthodontic braces.

These issues can be corrected, as long as you address the underlying issues as soon as you notice them.

Snoring stops your kid from deep, high-quality sleep

Snoring can prevent you from entering the deepest sleep phases. Deep, restful sleep is vital for children. During your deep sleep phases, your body releases a hormone called Human Growth Hormone (HCG). This is necessary for physical and mental development. A lack of HCG will prevent normal growth in both the body and brain. But your kid’s brain also depends on sleep to grow and develop properly. A lack of oxygen means a child’s brain never truly rests and the brain can’t lay down new neurons.

You can imagine how distressing this is for a child.

If your child doesn’t get adequate time in the deep sleep phase, they will feel tired, grumpy, confused and overwhelmed. In kids, this stress can start to build, and attention spans can be limited. This is a terrible way to feel, and can be easily avoided.

Snoring can lead to behavioral problems in kids

Kids who snore might not be getting enough rest and quality sleep. Blood flow to the brain can also be affected by snoring. If the child snores they experience oxygen starvation and the brain can suffer.

Some studies are suggesting that many kids diagnosed with ADHD might actually be suffering from poor sleep patterns.

Research has shown that kids who snore are at a higher risk for behavioral problems. Kids who snore are not getting a fully restful sleep. Their concentration, attitude and mood at school can suffer. Poor behaviour and acting out could be the result of an over tired child. In order to improve their attention span, all of the causes of snoring should be addressed.

What should I look for in kids who snore?

If your child snores, look for these signs of sleep disorder

  • Depression and intrusive thoughts
  • High anxiety levels
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Lower attention span
  • Hyperactivity
  • Reduced problem solving abilities
  • Memory problems
  • A lack of logic when doing school work
  • Increasing amounts of conflict with other children
  • Bad behaviour and disrespect to teachers
  • Bedwetting
  • Digestive problems

Mouth breathing and snoring in kids

Kids who snore at night can often be seen breathing through their mouths during the day. Mouthbreathing and snoring happen because of small or obstructed airways. If their snoring is caused by allergies or inflamed adenoids, they are probably breathing through their mouths because their nose is blocked

With a blocked sinus a child is left to breathe through their mouth. While this might seem like a good solution, it isn’t. Nasal breathing is designed to provide your lungs and brain with more oxygen. If your child breathes through their mouth on a regular basis, they will experience a lack of oxygen. During sleep, their breathing gets worse.

Over time, mouth breathing will cause changes to the facial structure of your child. Untreated mouth breathing and blocked nasal passages can lead to a high palate, crooked teeth and a long, narrow face. The lower jaw can be pushed back, and headaches can become a problem.

Snoring and teeth grinding in kids

Your kids’ health can be affected by snoring. But there are other signs of breathing dysfunction. Many children with blocked sinuses also grind their teeth. While teeth grinding is thought to be caused by stress. The real cause is lack of oxygen to the brain. During sleep if the airway is blocked, the brain detects lack of oxygen and pushes the jaw forward. This opens the airway, helping them to breath and clenches the teeth together.

Teeth grinding in kids can be identified by certain signs in the mouth.

It can cause:

  • Extreme wear on teeth
  • Cheek biting (which can lead to extreme pain or abscess)
  • Crowded teeth
  • Chipped teeth
  • Cross bite (when the jaw shifts from side to side when chewing)

For many kids, addressing the problems of snoring can help to stop teeth grinding. In some cases, parents might also need to look into braces or other dental help. Consult with your dentist or children’s orthodontist who works with airways and sleep.

Remedies for children who snore

In order to address the health problems in kids who snore, it is important to seek a doctor or dentist who works with a sleep physician. Your kid may need to be referred to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist (ENT) and/ or an airway focused children’s orthodontist.

In some cases, a parent can help stop your kid from snoring quickly and easily. Myofunctional training and facial muscle retraining can correct breathing in kids.

In airways blocked by inflammation, the cause must be found. This causes should be removed as soon as possible.

These include:

  • Allergies, such as hay fever or an allergy to a pets or foods
  • Enlarged or infected tonsils
  • Inflamed adenoids (glands behind the soft palate)
  • Weight gain or childhood obesity
  • Cold or flu

Some kids will require surgery and orthodontics to help expand and fix their airways. In some cases, behavioral disorders and mental capacity can improve dramatically.

What to do if your child snores

If you or your child suffers from teeth grinding, snoring or a more severe sleep disorder, it is time to seek help. If you have a friend or family with a child who snores, share this article with them.

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