Children often snore and this in itself is usually not a problem.

Sometimes however, the upper airway of a child can be significantly obstructed leading to “obstructive sleep apnea”, which is characterized by loud snoring punctuated by intermittent cessation of breathing, or choking and gasping sounds. Parents also may notice that their sleeping children thrash around or assume unusual sleep positions, such as sitting up or with their head hanging over the side of the bed.

During the day the same children are frequently loud mouth-breathers and may have a raspy voice. Childhood sleep problems have been linked with poor school performance, poor attention, behavior problems and even slow physical growth.

Experts do agree on one thing: Kids with sleep apnea don’t necessarily appear sleepy during the day. In fact, many seem agitated, hyperactive, and inattentive. That makes sense. Sleepy children often fight drowsiness with over-activity and can become the kind of cranky, aggressive kids that are as likely to end up in the principal’s office as the doctor’s office. Some children have even been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) when the change in behavior was due to these adverse symptoms from enlarged tonsils.

If your child has some of these symptoms, mention them to your physician, then following a clinical assessment the doctor can advise as to whether surgery may be beneficial. Occasionally, a sleep study or X-ray may be necessary.