SNORING & SLEEP APNOEA in adults and children

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Snoring is not normal!

Snoring is a noise generated by vibration of the soft or floppy parts of the throat during sleep. The noise is made by the walls of the pharynx – the part of the throat at the back of the tongue which is held open by several small muscles. These muscles relax when we go to sleep, narrowing the airway and partially choking off the air passage so that breathing in makes the pharyngeal walls vibrate, which makes the noise of snoring. The narrower your airway becomes, the greater the vibration and the louder your snoring.   Dr Sophia Petta will take note of the variations in the shape of the jaw, airway, face or nose which may result in some people having a small airway, which can be improved through dentistry.

Sleep disordered breathing

Sleep Disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome cause sleep deprivation through a reduction in the quantity of sleep and/or a disturbance in the quality of sleep. 

  • The effects of short-term sleep deprivation can be seen immediately in fatigue, poor performance and irritability.
  • The unseen effects of short-term sleep deprivation also include higher blood pressure and undesirable changes to a number of hormone levels, notably insulin, leptin and ghrelin.
  • A lack of sleep has been shown to be an independent risk factor in cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and stroke.
  • A lack of sleep has also been shown to be an independent risk factor in the “metabolic syndrome” disorders such as diabetes and obesity.
  • Insufficient sleep has economic as well as social impacts, as it leads to poor work performance, poor learning ability and increases in accidents
  • People suffering from disorders with related risks should discuss with their doctors whether their sleep problems may be contributing to their other disorders. Treating your sleep problem may help to improve other conditions.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea in Children

You often don’t think of children as snoring or suffering from sleep apnea but surprisingly a number do. The condition can be just as serious as in adults and may lead to daytime health problems such as failure to thrive, developmental delay or behavioural problems.

What is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where the child repeatedly stops breathing during sleep.  Usually they occur because of an obstruction in the airways, in children this obstruction is most commonly due to big tonsils and adenoids. This is called obstructive sleep apnea. A less common form of apnea is called central sleep apnea and results from a problem with the mechanisms that control breathing.

Nighttime signs of sleep apnea. Children with sleep apnea almost always snore, struggle to breathe and have restless sleep. There may also be frequent pauses in breathing and snoring lasting between 10 seconds and a minute. Pause may end with a gasping or choking noise and there may be a brief awakening as the child struggles to breathe. In young children the chest may be sucked in during an apnea and sometimes the child will adopt unusual sleeping positions. The child may also sweat profusely during sleep or wet the bed repeatedly. In the morning they may wake up with a dry mouth, a headache or confusion.

Daytime symptoms of sleep apnea. Because of the events during sleep, the child with sleep apnea may show a number of problems during the day. Infants may feed poorly and fail to gain weight. Older children may have behavioural problems such as hyperactivity, aggression, learning difficulties and poor concentration. Sleepiness can cause personality changes, poor school performance and interpersonal relationship problems. A child with sleep apnea may lag behind in many areas of development. They may become frustrated and depressed. In the long term, left untreated, sleep apnea can cause heart problems and high blood pressure which may in severe cases be life threatening.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed? When Dr Sophia Petta does her 6 monthly check-up, she is looking to see if there is evidence of cranio-facial abnormalities or conditions which affect the tongue or airways, in children with a small or receding jaw, sleep apnea is more common.  She will also check to see if she observes large tonsils and adenoids, this may suggest that a child has sleep apnea but the best way to be really sure is with a referral to complete a sleep study issued by Dr Petta.