Snoring is in your genes – so If you snore – your children will

There’s bad news for any children whose parents constantly keep them awake at night snoring – they are very likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps and be noisy sleepers too.

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Children whose parents suffer from obstructive sleep apnoea – of which snoring is a major symptom – have a much higher chance of having the condition than children whose parents do not, according to new research from New Zealand which has found a genetic link. The co-researcher of the study Dr Angela Campbell said the consequences could be serious, so it was important problems were picked up early.

Obstructive sleep apnoea, often referred to as OSA, is a major sleep breathing disorder that occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat close off the airway during sleep. This can happen for various reasons but the main one is being overweight.

However, as well as keeping the family awake all night, sleep apnoea can affect a child’s learning at school by hindering their ability to retain information, making them more sleepy during the day and more prone to developing cardiovascular issues such as hypertension later in life.

The study involved asking children whose parents had obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and others whose parents were low risk, various questions about symptoms that related to snoring and sleep apnoea.

It found a significantly larger number of the children whose parents had sleep apnoea appeared to exhibit the related symptoms such as snoring, restlessness at night, breathing through the mouth, sweating in the night and hyperactivity during the day. The children whose parents had sleep apnoea were more likely to snore loudly and to have crowded or small airways.

Current estimates in New Zealand said about 20 per cent of adults had sleep apnoea. It was twice as common in men. Between 5 and 10 per cent of adults had severe sleep apnoea. Most were overweight.

Factors that contributed to sleep apnoea included facial structure, which could be genetic, and being overweight.

NZ Respiratory and Sleep Institute clinical director Dr Andrew Veale said it was not surprising there was a link between parents who had sleep apnoea and their children because certain bone structures and tongue sizes made it more likely. He said it was effectively treated in children by removing their tonsils.

Traditional treatment for adults meant the use of a system called CPAP, (continuous patient airway pressure) which is simply a pump by the bedside that forces a constant flow of air via a facemask throughout the night. This system was unpopular method for many reasons including dry mouth, noise, and even claustrophobia.

This is now only recommended for absolutely chronic sufferers.

The current approved method that is recommended for mild to moderate sufferers is a specially fitted mouthpiece called a splint. These are made bespoke for the patient’s mouth and done by using a mould that you bite into when warmed in water. It’s easy to wear and works simply to solve this major health risk. The splint moves the bottom jaw forward slightly, opening the throat so that air flows constantly and there are no more interruptions to breathing – and as a result – no snoring either.

Not only will it prevent sleep apnoea, but also there are many indications that it any previous harm is repaired.

Medical recommendations include weight loss and using a splint to stop snoring for all mild to moderate OSA sufferers.

By John Redfern