Are your child's first phone calls home from college riddled with roommate complaints? That's quite common. But if he or she says their roommate gripes about their snoring or says your son or daughter is breathing heavy during the night, this feedback could be cause for you to be concerned.
Your child might have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that developed recently, or, you may not have noticed while they were living under your roof.
Although it's quite common for a teen living away at college to have a change in their sleeping patterns and take some time adjusting, if their roommate reports that your child exhibits odd sleeping patterns (like restless sleep, sleepwalking or sleeping in strange positions), follow up with a few more questions to try to get to the bottom of the issue.
Ask your child if they're taking a lot of naps during the day, if they feel more irritable than usual, if they're having trouble waking up in the morning, or, if they wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat. Those are all signs your child might have OSA.
While taking college-level classes is likely to be an adjustment, if your child says they're having issues paying attention and focusing during the day, those are other indicators for OSA. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea could lead to serious health issues down the line, as well as short-term problems like headaches and memory or learning problems.
A study from the University of Arizona examined 263 children at different times in their lives and found that those who experienced OSA into their teens were more likely to have problems around hyperactivity, aggressiveness, attention issues, as well as emotional and social behavioral problems. Those behavior issues could even play into how well the child performed in school. A meta analysis of 16 studies published in Pediatrics looked at the academic performance of children with sleep-disordered breathing and found that these sleep issues may hinder cognitive performance and success in school. While tutors and one-on-one help may appear to be the solution, it's important to get to the root of the issue if it's a health-related one.
Your child may be at an even higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea if someone in your family has it, if they're overweight, if they have a large tongue, or if they have cerebral palsy or Down syndrome.
Have your college student come home for an appointment so they can get checked out by their doctor to see if they have OSA, or if something else is wrong.
Their doctor may refer you to a specialist, possibly sending your child to a lab for an overnight sleep study to determine if they have a sleep disorder. Treatment options may include one of the following: surgery to remove the adenoids and tonsils, continuous pulmonary airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, weight management, or sleep behavior changes.
Get your child's sleep issues treated as soon as possible — so the only thing their roommate can vent about are dirty clothes on the floor!