Can Snoring Predict Health Risks?

For most people, snoring is little more than a noisy nuisance that might make a good night’s sleep an elusive dream. But in some scenarios, snoring can be a sign that an individual is suffering from sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea has the potential to lead to poor health outcomes. And while the condition is usually associated with older people, children can also be diagnosed with pediatric obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

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Snoring alone is not a sign of OSA

Snoring can be annoying to listen to, especially when trying to sleep. But as a lone symptom, snoring isn’t enough of an indicator to prove without a doubt that a child may suffer from OSA. To be diagnosed with OSA, multiple symptoms must be noted, including a family history of sleep apnea.

Determine the type of snoring

People may be surprised to realize that experts don’t group all snoring in the same category. Snoring is broken down into primary snoring and the more severe form linked with sleep apnea. Primary snoring is when a child exhibits snoring behaviors more than twice a week, but no other symptoms or health conditions are on display. In other words, primary snoring is benign, although still annoying.

When snoring is serious

For snoring to lead to an OSA diagnosis, other signs that a child’s condition is interfering with daily life will be very noticeable. While the following symptoms are common signs of sleep apnea, other underlying conditions such as obesity, a family history of OSA, or even genetic disorders like Down Syndrome can also increase a child’s risk. If a parent suspects any of the following symptoms, consider contacting a pediatrician.

  • Snoring with snorts, pauses, and gasping
  • Restless sleeping and unusual sleep positions
  • Sleepwalking
  • Night terrors
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day
  • Heavy breathing while asleep
  • Poor concentration or hyperactivity

Treating OSA

A pediatrician will usually recommend that parents work with an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or an ENT, for more specialized care. A treatment plan for OSA is usually crafted after frequent physician monitoring and sleep studies to track a child’s snoring and sleep quality as well as determine the underlying causes that must be addressed. Two common treatments include surgically removing the tonsils or removing large adenoids. Both surgeries are considered very effective in treating OSA. However, other long-term therapies can involve using a CPAP machine or a weight-loss plan if a physician determines that OSA is caused by childhood obesity.

Stay proactive

Don’t jump to conclusions about childhood snoring. Some, but not all, children’s snoring is linked to OSA. Parents with concerns should speak to a physician first and learn if a child is a candidate for sleep monitoring or needs a referral for an ENT. By working with experts, parents can help to improve a child’s sleep quality and potentially put an end to snoring.

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