Sept. 13, 2004 — Nearly one in 10 children and adolescents snore, and new insight from German and Austrian researchers helps explain why.
Scientists, including Michael Urschitz, MD, of the University Hospital of Tuebingen in Tuebingen, Germany, wanted to identify snoring’s risk factors in primary school students.
Urschitz and colleagues gave questionnaires to more than 1,100 parents and their third-grade children. The students attended 27 primary schools in Hannover, Germany.
The researchers focused on habitual snoring (snoring on most nights). While snoring may be a social issue, there are real medical reasons to seek evaluation and treatment for the condition. It disturbs sleep patterns and deprives a person of rest. When severe, it can cause serious health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea which can lead to heart disease.
They followed up one year later with habitual snorers.
Risks for snoring in children included a higher body mass index (BMI — an indirect measure of body fat), regular daytime mouth breathing, and a higher frequency of sore throats.
The study showed that children with a BMI greater than most children of their age (higher than 90% or more) were found to be have a higher risk of habitual snoring.
Frequent infections and parental smoking were also significant risk factors for children. For both boys and girl, childhood snoring was shown to be more common in households that had someone who smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day.
Experts already knew that obesity is a risk factor for snoring and sleep-disordered breathing for all ages, including children. In the study, children whose BMI was greater than 90% of other children were four times more likely to have habitual snoring compared with children whose weight was less than 75% of their peers.
According to the researchers, one reason that overweight and obese children snore might be that heavier and thicker necks compress the windpipe, causing snoring and sleep-disordered breathing.
What’s the big deal about kids breathing through their mouths during the day?
People breathe through their mouths when they have increased nasal resistance, say the researchers.
Increased nasal resistance can be caused by chronic nasal congestion at night, which is known to prompt snoring in adults.
Obesity and daytime mouth breathing had similar effects on boys and girls. However, girls and boys responded differently to other risk factors.
For instance, low maternal education and habitual snoring were more strongly linked in boys, but not in girls.
In contrast, sore throats were more strongly linked to habitual snoring in girls.
“Girls complaining frequently about sore throats had a five times higher risk for habitual snoring than comparable boys,” write the researchers in the September issue of the journal CHEST.
Boys seemed to outgrow snoring, but snoring became more common as girls grew up.
“We observed a steady decrease in habitual snoring with age in boys and an increase in girls,” write the researchers.
Currently, there aren’t any proven ways to stop snoring in children, say the researchers.
They call for more work to identify risk factors that can be modified to give kids snoring-free nights.