Snoring and sleep apnoea in children

  • Snoring and sleep apnoea is common in children.

  • It can impact upon a child’s development and performance at school.

  • In most affected children tonsil and adenoid surgery can cure the problem.

When enjoying a normal sleep pattern, children will keep to a natural breathing rhythm, though they may make sounds or become more restless at various points in their sleep cycle.

In some instances however, children may experience an interrupted breathing rhythm which may lead to noises such as snoring.

Sometimes the partial blockage to breathing, which causes snoring, can worsen and there can be a complete blockage of airflow.

This usually lasts a few seconds and is called sleep apnoea.

Thankfully the body can recognise this and wakes the child up to make them start breathing again.

Symptoms of snoring and sleep apnoea in children

Symptoms of snoring and sleep apnoea in children

Sleep apnoea in children can take various forms, this includes:

  • Heavy breathing
  • Gasps
  • Snorts
  • Pauses before one of these sounds starts up again

You may also observe that your child is very restless in bed at night, or that they sleep in unusual positions. They may wet the bed too, due to their disturbed sleep patterns, and could also experience night terrors and sleepwalking.

These things are not always a cause for alarm, but if they are coupled with irregular breathing during their sleep, it is important to seek medical advice.

Keep in mind that the symptoms of sleep apnoea in children are not always clear.

You may find that – though they stay in bed all night - your child is hard to wake, tired during the day, hyperactive or displaying poor attention and concentration. These are also signs they are not enjoying a healthy sleep pattern.

Falling behind at school or teachers raising concerns about behaviour in a child who snores loudly or has been seen to stop breathing when sleeping is a cause for concern. In this situation you should meet with an ENT specialist to fully check your child over.

Causes of snoring and sleep apnoea in children

Causes of snoring and sleep apnoea in children

Snoring or sleep apnoea usually indicates that your child has some sort of blockage.

The blockage is likely to be in their respiratory (breathing) system anywhere from their nose, mouth or throat to their lungs. The obstruction is often caused by naturally occurring issue, like tonsils or adenoids.

The tonsils are two small pieces of tissue which sit at the back of the throat.

When they become enlarged, they can block breathing and cause snoring or possibly sleep apnoea. Similarly adenoid tissue, which sits at the back of the nose, can lead to a blocked nose and result in disturbed sleep. Most often we see a combined blockage caused by tonsils and the adenoids.

Confirming if your child has sleep apnoea

Mr Lakhani will speak to you about the problems your child is having with snoring and very carefully assess for tell-tale signs of snoring or sleep apnoea.

Sometimes a sleep study is used but in many cases a sleep study is not needed. Your child’s nose and throat will also be gently examined to identify the site of likely blockage and highlight what can be done to treat or cure the problem.

Treatment options for snoring and sleep apnoea in children

In mild cases simply using medication to ease a blocked nose or just waiting for the child grow is all that is needed.

The main treatment for childhood snoring and sleep apnoea, which  is problematic, is surgery to remove the tonsils (tonsillectomy) and adenoids (adenoidectomy).

In rare cases when surgery is not possible or doesn’t work, there are various therapies, devices and masks that open a child’s airways and make it easier for them to have a peaceful night’s sleep.

Coblation (vaporistaiton) tonsil surgery

Mr Lakhani utilizes coblation for all tonsil surgery in children with sleep apnoea or problematic snoring. This is for the following reasons:

  • Much lower levels of pain after surgery
  • Reduced risk of complication such as bleeding
  • Quicker recovery and return to school

Get in Touch

Julia Brighton

9 Harley Street
London W1G 9QY


020 7760 7561
020 7760 7222