Watch your child sleep. If he has periods of sleep apnea – stretches of 10 to 15 seconds where he doesn’t breath, followed by an intense catch-up breath – report this to your doctor. Sleep apnea and snoring at night may also be due to enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. During the day, the tonsils do not compromise the airway. But at night the air passages relax and narrow, requiring more effort to force the air to move through them faster. This is what produces the snoring noise.
Have your child’s nasal passages and throat examined by your pediatrician. If your doctor is unable to detect a structural problem, be sure your child’s sleeping environment is free of allergens – including dust collectors and animal dander – which can cause nighttime stuffiness and result in noisy breathing. In addition to removing potential allergens, a bedroom air purifier (preferably the HEPA-type) can help, so can encouraging different sleep positions for your child. Sleeping on his side or stomach may relieve your child’s snoring.
Sleep apnea interferes with a child’s overall growth and well-being. Children alternate between light and deep sleep, and when their airway becomes obstructed, they often awaken startled from a lack of air. This causes an adrenaline rush and revs up the child’s nervous system at night, interfering with sleep.
If your doctor thinks there is a structural cause for the snoring, you will probably be referred to an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist.
Incidentally, sleep apnea also can induce bedwetting. So, as an added perk, you’ll probably notice more nighttime dryness once your child’s adenoids come out.