Have you ever walked into your child’s bedroom in the middle of the night, heard them snore and thought, “Aww, they must be really tired”? Well, the snoring might seem to be cute the first time, but if it persists — that should set off some alarm bells.
Why do we need to worry about snoring children?
Habitual snoring, defined as snoring on at least three nights a week, is the result of obstructed upper airways during sleep. It is important to note that in young children, snoring may not be as obvious and loud as an adult’s. According to medical experts, it is recommended for all children to be screened for habitual snoring.
But more importantly, habitual snoring in children is known to be one of the most common symptoms of an underlying condition that can have wide-ranging effects on learning behaviour – Paediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).
Paediatric OSA, a sleep disorder characterised by frequent stoppages in breathing during sleep, affects 1 to 3 per cent of children aged 2 to 6 in Singapore. This translates to 400 to 1,200 new cases every year.
Yet many cases of habitual snoring in children go undiagnosed due to low awareness about the condition.
Why is early intervention key?
If left untreated, Paediatric OSA results in poor sleep quality, which may affect the cognitive and physical development of young children the long run. Reports also link Paediatric OSA to poor academic performance — a definite cause for concern!
So, how do we identify if it’s Paediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnoea?
Snoring is only one of three key night time indicators of Paediatric OSA. Here are three simple checks
(O.W.L) you can perform while your child is asleep!
O – Observe for Restless Sleep
In order to breathe better while asleep, your child may frequently shift positions in search of an optimal posture. This may manifest as tossing and turning, with bedding and blankets messily thrown and kicked around during sleep.
If the child struggles to breathe while asleep, you may also observe an alternate rising and falling of the chest and stomach, similar to a see-saw movement.
W – Watch out for Unusual Sleep Postures
As the child tries to keep their upper airways open, their sleeping positions may be rather unusual. Common examples include hyperextension of the neck, hanging the head off the edge of the bed, or leaning forward in a sitting posture during sleep. An open mouth posture may also indicate that your child is mouth-breathing — a clear sign of obstruction in the nasal passages.
L – Listen for Habitual Snoring
As mentioned earlier, habitual snoring refers to snoring on three or more nights a week. Snoring comes from vibrations caused by air flowing through obstructed upper airways.
Loud or soft, frequent snoring is a cause for concern, which may not always be due to fatigue or tiredness.
If you identify the above three symptoms in your child, please seek advice from a medical expert to confirm the diagnosis.
Guardians of the Night is a student-led public health communication campaign focusing on raising awareness for Paediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), by educating and empowering parents to identify its key signs and symptoms using the O.W.L checklist. Find out more about Guardians of the Night and Paediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnoea at http://guardthenight.com, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@GOTNSG).