Snoring Linked to Learning Problems in Kids: 8 Warning Signs to Watch Out For

Cute little kid sleeping

When it comes our children, we're always on high alert for any and every potential danger. But it's hard to safeguard against something we don't even know is a potential threat! A new study warns about the dangers of chronic snoring in children, and the negative effects it can have on your little one's ability to learn.

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Researchers in a study at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden point out that many parents with kids who snore aren't even aware of the potential health ramifications, which is pretty scary stuff. Following babies and kids up to age 11 for a period of time, experts determined that five percent of participants snored excessively throughout the week.

Furthermore, the study concludes that little ones who constantly snore are more likely to have issues learning and concentrating. In fact, excessive snoring could indicate a serious disorder called sleep apnea, which can cause daytime fatigue -- and can negatively affect a child's growth and concentration.

So, what does this mean for parents? Should we all be freaked out every time our baby gives a cute little snort in the middle of the night?

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Dr. Robert Ziltzer, a pediatrician and obesity medicine–certified physician in Scottsdale, Arizona, wants moms and dads to know that snoring itself isn't the culprit -- nor is it the determining factor as to whether or not your child will have academic success.

"Snoring is common in children, especially due to weight gain -- obesity -- and tonsillar hypertrophy, or enlarged tonsils," notes Dr. Ziltzer. "Snoring by itself does not cause problems; specifically, it does not affect school performance."

Phew.

What Dr. Ziltzer does caution, however, is that parents should pay close attention to their snoozing little ones, as consistent snoring could indicate a bigger problem.

"When snoring becomes severe, and breathing is impaired, learning can certainly be affected," advises Dr. Ziltzer. This is called obstructive sleep apnea, he explains, symptoms of which include falling asleep during the day, falling grades, fatigue, depression, and elevated blood pressure. "This is a serious disease and requires treatment," he adds.

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So how can we tell if our kid's snoring is just run-of-the mill noise, and when it's possibly something more serious?

Here are 8 warning signs:

1. Snoring that stops -- and starts again.

The hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea, says Dr. Arthur Wu, pediatric otolaryngologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, is actually a cessation of snoring -- and breathing. "Many children snore," he explains. "The real problem is in those children that stop breathing at night -- this is usually noticed when a child snores and then ceases snoring, followed by a gasp when the child starts breathing again."

2. Frequent nighttime sweating

According to Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg, board certified sleep medicine physician and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, frequent nighttime sweating can be due to over-activity of the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system during sleep, triggered by low oxygen and efforts to breathe against a closed airway.

Dr. Rosenberg recommends moms and dads seek medical attention if a child demonstrates the above or any of the following behavior.

3. Inward (rather than outward) movement of the rib cage and breastbone while breathing in

This is called "paradoxical inward breathing," explains Dr. Rosenberg, and it's also caused by vigorous efforts to breathe in against a closed airway.

4. Chronic bed-wetting

Several studies have shown a high incidence of sleep apnea in bed wetters, says Dr. Rosenberg.

5. Unusual sleep positions

Hyperactive extension of the neck is common in children with sleep apnea, because it tends to help keep the airway open.

6. Frequent sleepwalking and/or night terrors

Dr. Rosenberg says that in a study done at Stanford several years ago, a majority of sleepwalking children with sleep apnea stopped sleepwalking after treatment of their sleep apnea.

7. Reoccurring morning headaches

Morning headaches can be caused by low oxygen and elevated blood pressure while asleep.

8. Hyperactivity and inattentiveness in school

Children with sleep apnea are frequently misdiagnosed as having ADHD, says Dr. Rosenberg. Careful screening such as inquiring about snoring can in some cases avoid unnecessary medications used for ADHD.

 

 

Image via Zurijeta/Shutterstock

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