Snoring & Sleep Apnoea (Children)

What causes snoring in children?

By far the most common reason that children snore is due to large tonsils and adenoids. Occasionally there are other anatomical causes such as a very small jaw or airway. Sometimes the muscles and nerves which co-ordinate breathing during sleep are not working properly.

What is sleep apnoea?

Sometimes while snoring the airways become so narrow that despite a child’s best effort, no air is delivered. The is called an apnoea. As oxygen levels falls, carbon dioxide levels rise. Eventually the child will stir or wake up to catch his or her breathe. This can happen multiple times per night in children with severe sleep apnoea.

What problems can snoring and sleep apnoea cause?

Snoring causes sleep disruption which can lead to a range of behavioural issues.

These include:

  • Poor concentration and inattention
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD)
  • Bed wetting
  • Night terrors
  • Slow growth
  • Headaches
  • Impaired memory
  • Other behavioural problems (aggression, anxiety) and social impairment


What are the treatments for sleep apnoea in children?

In children, the most common reason for sleep apnoea is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. The best treatment is to send them to an ear, nose and throat surgeon for assessment and to consider removing them. This can cure the problem in around 80-90% of children.

It may be important for a sleep physician to review your child before anadenotonsillectomy is performed to decide if a sleep study (polysomnogram) needs to be performed before surgery to establish the severity of sleep apnoea.