Getting adequate sleep is important to childhood development.

Is your 3 year old snoring like a grown man at night?  Is your 7 year old still wetting the bed?  Is your kindergartner a restless sleeper and beginning to have behavioral issues at school?

Getting adequate sleep is an incredibly important part of childhood development.  Nearly 7-10% of children snore on a nightly basis and 20% of children snore some of the time.  Snoring can be a sign of disruptive sleep and possibly of pediatric obstructive sleep apnea.  Common causes of snoring in young children include upper respiratory infections, allergies, enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and obstructive sleep apnea.

There are several things that should make you more concerned if your child does have a tendency to snore at night.  These include:

  • loud snoring or gasping throughout night easily heard through a closed door
  • restless, fitful sleep
  • persistent nightmares
  • difficulty arising and getting ready for school
  • daytime tiredness
  • bedwetting beyond an expected age
  • ADHD or ADD -like behavior at home or reported by school

Disrupted sleep can manifest in many different ways in young children.

Some children can be grumpy or aggressive, others can have a difficult time focusing or concentrating, and still others can have anxiety or issues with hyperactivity.

Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea can be treated in many ways.  In overweight or obese children weight loss is important.  Head of bed elevation and positive pressure ventilation can also be employed.  If there are large tonsils and adenoids, a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy can make a difference.  Only occasionally do we order a pediatric sleep study.  Most kids do not enjoy spending a night in a sleep lab with sticky recording leads attached.  Often good old-fashioned detailed history-taking by the clinician paired with a good physical exam will suffice to determine whether pediatric sleep apnea is present.

If any of the above information rings true for your child, you may wish to discuss symptoms with your primary care provider or seek evaluation by an ENT physician.  If sleep apnea or a sleep disordered breathing pattern is identified, very often something can be done to eliminate symptoms and help your child (and you) get a more restful night of sleep.

Susan L. Fulmer, MD

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