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14th May 2020

If your child snores, it could be an indication of their learning abilities

Major cause for concern says expert.

Trine Jensen-Burke

While we may think that snoring is mostly an adult problem, experts now claim it can affect as many as 1 in 10 children too.

And while many children snore from time to time, either when in a very deep sleep, or especially when they have a head cold or if they suffer from allergies, it is habitual, regular snoring that can actually turn out to be rather serious.

In fact, Medical News Today say some children, whose snoring can be classified as a sleep disorder, are mistakenly diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, when all they really need is a good night’s sleep.

Yup, it’s true. Snoring can cause such bad sleep for children that they act up and struggle to pay attention in school.

Dr. David Gozal, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Louisville, and director of the Paediatric Sleep Centre at Kosair Children’s Hospital, has studied the link between learning difficulties and what is known as sleep disordered breathing, and this is what you should know:

According to Dr Gozal, the most common reason children snore is enlarged tonsils and adenoids (although there could be anatomical components too, with some children suffering from a narrow airway, or muscle-problems, meaning the jaw don’t open enough to let enough air through to breathe normally when they sleep).

Cause for concern

While there is no need to panic if your child snores a little here and there, experts warn parents should be aware of the problems associated with habitual snoring, and the disruption of the quality of sleep this can bring. In fact, frequent snoring in children should always be assessed, states Dr Gozal, who says this type of snoring could indicate significant problems.

The main concern, explains the doctor, is that the child could be suffering from sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome, meaning short-term, the child will wake up not feeling rested enough, feel sluggish and struggle with concentration.

This, naturally, can affect learning, and lack of good quality sleep can lead to behaviour that in many ways resemble someone suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Gozal explains:

“The next day, these kids are having difficulty paying attention and staying put, and behave as if they have ADHD. We have shown recently that a substantial number of children who are diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder have sleep apnea, and if you treat the sleep disordered breathing their hyperactivity disappears.”

Long-term, snoring due to sleep apnea can have even more serious consequences.

“If you don’t sleep well at night and your brain suddenly does not receive enough oxygen, you may start losing brain cells, says Gozal. “So during a period of brain development, the cognitive abilities of the children are affected by sleep apnea.”

And this, frighteningly, can lead to irreversible loss of brain cells.

“In a study that we did several years ago we found that children who were not doing well in school were much more likely to have sleep apnea than normal children. We also found that if you treated those children for their sleep apnea early enough, their grades came up.”