New research suggests many parents of children who frequently snore in their sleep do not realize it could be harmful to their children’s health and quality of life.
The study – led by Gothenburg University in Sweden – is published in The Journal of Laryngology & Otology.
The researchers say that many children snore occasionally, mostly without experiencing any harm.
But, they note that when snoring becomes persistent – and particularly if the child experiences sleep apnea – then sleep quality is affected, which can lead to daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, learning difficulties, delayed growth and bed-wetting.
First author Dr. Gunnhildur Gudnadottir, a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University, says:
“Children with persistent snoring often have a reduced quality of life. In particular, this applies to children who have sleep apnea.”
Sleep apnea is a common disorder where breathing pauses or becomes very shallow during sleep. When this happens, you drift in and out of deep sleep into light sleep.
For their study, the researchers randomly selected 1,320 children aged 0-11 years from a national database of children living in Sweden.
- The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, where the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep
- In adults, untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes
- It can also make irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) more likely.
The children’s parents or caregivers were asked to fill in questionnaires about their child’s sleep-disordered breathing over the last month, and whether a health care provider had been contacted about the symptoms.
From the 754 responses received, the researchers found around 5% of the children snored persistently on several nights a week, but only in around one third of these cases did the parent or caregiver seek medical help for the problem.
Dr. Gudnadottir, who is also a consulting surgeon at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, says:
“The study shows that awareness is low regarding the negative effects of breathing disturbances during sleep on children’s health and that most parents are not aware that this is something that should be investigated.”
She says this obviously implies that we must consider how best to inform parents about the condition and where they should go for help.
The researchers note that the most common reason for persistent snoring in children is enlarged tonsils or adenoids, suggesting the problem might readily be cured or eased with surgery.
In any case, says the team, parents with children who persistently snore should take them to the doctor for a medical evaluation.
Meanwhile, Medical News Today recently learned about another study that shows sleep-deprived teens find it harder to cope with stress, which in turn can harm their health and schoolwork.