Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Question

My little girl snores occasionally. Could this mean she has sleep apnea?

Dr. Greene`s Answer:

Any child who snores may not be getting adequate sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is a common medical condition that is now being identified in more and more children. The peak age for this is 2 to 5 years old, but it can occur at any age. Not all kids who snore have sleep apnea. Classically, those with sleep apnea snore quite loudly for a bit, then are silent, then snort briefly, move about, and resume snoring. Children with sleep apnea may adopt unusual sleeping positions, like bending their necks back so their chin is lifted upwards, in order to keep their airway open. If snoring is accompanied by nighttime breathing difficulty and pauses in breathing, then it may well be sleep apnea. This should be brought to the attention of your pediatrician. You might want to make a cassette tape of your child’s sleep noises to bring with you.

Children with sleep apnea do not get sound sleep. They may also get suboptimal oxygen to the brain at night. Obstructive sleep apnea can have a serious negative impact on a child’s intellect and behavior. The common daytime symptoms of sleep apnea are difficulty paying attention during the day, decreased academic performance, oppositional behavior, restlessness, morning headache, and dry mouth. Not all kids with sleep apnea snore. Even when they do, sleep apnea is often overlooked. Instead, the child is diagnosed with a behavioral disorder — most commonly ADD (Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, Sep 1997).

Last medical review on: June 21, 2008
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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