When I was pregnant with my child, he quickly acquired the name, Piglet – and for obvious reasons. Piglet made mummy eat lots. Piglet made mummy very fat. Good fat though. Healthy pregnancy blossoming mama fat. But I digress.
When Piglet emerged from the womb, his name quickly and naturally shifted to The Pig. The Pig is hungry. The Pig is crying. The Pig is alseep. Darling, can you put The Pig in the car? And we used the term in as endearing a manner as possible. Especially when he snored. My sweet, darling, perfect little Pig.
But apparently, if I were, say… an Ear Nose and Throat specialist, the seemingly sweet hum of my baby’s snores would not be cause for a snicker and a happy snap – they would be cause for concern.
Whoa mumma, hold up!
Ok before I go into all the terrible things that may be happening to your snoring child, let me clarify “snoring child”. You DO NOT need to start banging on the panic buttons if your child:
- Is sick or has a cold;
- Is really tired at the end of a busy day; or
- Is not a “habitual” snorer, whereby snoring is present for four or more nights of the week.
That said, if your child does snore habitually (four or more nights a week), it may be wise to get them checked out.
Dr David McIntosh is an internationally recognised ENT, specialising in paediatrics. He explains it like this:
“Breathing is an automated process, controlled by the brain. By monitoring chemical levels in the blood, the brain can work out if the breathing is working properly. If the signals to the brain indicate that something is wrong, the brain can alter the rate of breathing to compensate. The problem of airway obstruction [which is what happens when you are snoring] though is that even if the brain recognises there is a problem, increasing the effort of breathing achieves very little. Furthermore, blockage to breathing results in oxygen levels in the blood dropping. This is something the brain does not like very much.”
And you know what happens when the brain is deprived of oxygen? It panics. When it panics blood flow is affected. And as the brain acts as the control system for the nervous system, this setting in of panic brings about a whole range of problems.
What sort of problems?
Dr McIntosh explains that in children who snore habitually, we have been able to observe the the following:
- reduced attention
- higher levels of social problems
- higher levels of anxiety
- higher levels of depressive symptoms
- daytime sleepiness
- cognitive dysfunctions
- problems with memory
- problems with executive functions (thinking through problems logically)
He goes on to point out that two significant paediatric studies (here and here) have clearly demonstrated that “children with the snoring and altered blood flow had issues with their brain function, as measured by their ability to think through puzzles and problems. Their concentration also improved once the airway blockages were fixed.”
And then there’s THE BIG STUDY
Consisting of 11,000 children over a period of six years, beginning at 6 months of age, the results of this study are impossible to ignore.
Not only did the researchers find that children who snored, breathed through the mouth, or had sleep apnoea had a higher incidence of the behavioural issues listed above, but they were 50 to 90 percent more likely to develop ADHD-like symptoms than normal breathers.
McIntosh further explains that, “Those children who suffered most severely from sleep-disordered breathing at around age 2½ had the highest risk for hyperactivity, and children who stopped snoring over time, were still more likely to have problems than children that had never snored. ”
So what does it mean?
If you notice that your baby or child is snoring “on the reg”, don’t ignore it. If you notice your child suffers from any of the above problems and is a habitual snorer, get them checked out as soon as possible.
“Children are not supposed to snore. If they snore 4 nights of the week, or more, or they mouth breathe, or grind their teeth, there is now enough evidence to warrant a specialist review,” McIntosh recommends.
“Such a review must comprehensively assess the airway to look for obstruction – and where such obstruction exists, treatment needs to be expedient to have the best outcome for the child and their brain.”
For more information visit entspecialists.com.au. Read more about the research into this area by visiting Dr David McIntosh‘s totally understandable slideshow.