MONDAY, April 10, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Infant children of parents who are habitual snorers are themselves at increased risk for frequent snoring, a new study reveals.
The study also found that young children diagnosed with atopy -- a tendency to develop allergies and asthma -- are also prone to frequent snoring.
And African-American children are at elevated risk for chronic snoring, the researchers said.
The findings are important, the researchers said, because so-called "sleep-disordered breathing" among children has been previously associated with the development of learning disabilities, heart disease, and metabolic disorders.
"Early intervention can reduce morbidity due to sleep-disordered breathing," said study lead author Dr. Maninder Kalra, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Kalra and his colleagues noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics already recommends that all children be screened for obstructive sleep-disordered breathing.
Whether it occurs in children or adults, snoring is tied to the dynamics at the back of the mouth and nose, where airflow can become disrupted, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAOHNS). The snoring noise is produced when the throat and tongue vibrate against portions of the roof of the mouth, such as the palate and uvula.
Nasal allergies, infections, structural irregularities and problems related to the tonsils and adenoids -- the infection-fighting spongy tissue above the mouth roof -- are also linked to the onset of snoring.
Surgical, laser and radio-wave treatments for patients of all ages can offer some relief to chronic snorers, by clearing obstructions and tightening loose throat tissue. Nasal masks designed to increase air pressure can also help.
For less-serious adult cases, physicians suggest a range of lifestyle changes, such as adhering to routine sleep patterns, weight loss, sleeping on one's side, and avoiding alcohol and sleeping medications before turning in.
The new infant-risk findings were based on tallies of the incidence of snoring among 681 children living in the Cincinnati area. All the infants were born to parents who were themselves diagnosed as atopic. The average age of the children -- 80 percent of whom were white, and 55 percent of whom were boys -- was just over 1 year.
Habitual snoring was defined as snoring three or more times a week. The parents completed questionnaires to identify any relationship between infant snoring and parental snoring, infant atopic status, and infant exposure to parental smoking.
Blood tests were also done to assess infant allergies, including those related to grass pollens, ragweed, various trees, dust mites, penicillin, cockroaches, cats, and dogs.
Reporting in the April issue of the journal Chest, the study authors noted that among the parents, 20 percent of the mothers and 46 percent of the fathers were found to be habitual snorers. According to the AAOHNS, an estimated 25 percent of adults snore regularly, while 45 percent snore on occasion. The phenomenon commonly affects men more often than women.
Among the children, those infants with at least one parent who was a habitual snorer were almost three times as likely to snore frequently than those with no parental history of snoring.
Children who tested positive for atopy were found to be nearly twice as likely to be habitual snorers as non-atopic children.
African-American children also appeared to have a higher risk for snoring -- they were almost three times as likely to be habitual snorers.
No association was found, however, between infant snoring and exposure to parental smoking.
"We found that frequent snoring at age 1 is as prevalent as that reported in school-age children," Kalra said. "Parents who snore should be aware that their children are at increased risk for frequent snoring."
So are children with a history of allergies, Kalra said, adding that an estimated 40 million children in the western world suffer from allergies.
One expert said the findings should further the study of sleep apnea, where individuals suffer multiple interruptions in breathing during sleep.
"First, it adds to the growing body of literature for the potential genetic factures that may underline sleep apnea," said Mark S. Aloia, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I. "I can't think of any other studies that have identified a familial pattern as this one does. And it also serves an important role for identifying potential risk factors for a disorder that's often under-diagnosed and under-treated," he added.
A second study in the April issue of Chest found that women with a higher body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height) appear more likely to be habitual snorers.
The Swedish study, which surveyed more than 6,800 women, also found that snoring was most common among women between the ages of 50 and 59.
For more on snoring, visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.