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The sight and sound of a young child snoring might seem sweet and funny. That buzzy, sawmill noise coming from a sweet, sleeping little person makes for quite a contrast. But snoring in children is actually something to take seriously. Especially when it’s routine as snoring can interfere with children’s sleep, health, daytime behaviors, and ability to learn.
Before we jump in further, let’s do a quick refresher on the basic mechanics of snoring: Snoring happens as a result of a narrowed or temporarily blocked air passage. When the breath passes through a constricted airway, the tissues of the airway vibrate—and that vibration creates the noise of snoring. This basic physiology of snoring is essentially the same for children and adults. But children face their own risks and consequences from snoring.
Many children who snore regularly do so because of another, underlying condition. Identifying and treating those conditions can help alleviate children’s snoring, helping them sleep more soundly.
Learn more: Read What Causes Snoring in Children?
Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a child's breathing is blocked either partially or completely during sleep. The condition occurs when there is a narrowing or blockage in the upper airway during sleep.
While adults typically experience daytime sleepiness as a symptom, children are more likely to exhibit behavioral issues. A common underlying cause for sleep apnea in adults is obesity, but in children the most common underlying condition is enlargement of the adenoids and/or tonsils.
It’s not only adults who can develop this more serious form of sleep-disordered breathing. Children can have obstructive sleep apnea, too. Not all children who snore have sleep apnea. According to estimates, about 1 in 10 children snore regularly, and an estimated 1-4 percent of children have sleep apnea.
Other risk factors for pediatric sleep apnea include having:
Like adults, children face social and behavioral problems connected to snoring and other forms of sleep-disordered breathing. Research shows that young children who snore, have sleep apnea, or experience difficulty breathing during sleep are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral challenges, including hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, and depression, by age seven. Even children who snore occasionally can exhibit some ADHD-like behaviors, according to research.
Kids who have sleep-disordered breathing, including snoring, are more likely to face challenges in the classroom. They’re at greater risk for problems with attention and focus, and more likely to face difficulty with learning. There may be a relationship between snoring and early childhood and academic issues later on in children’s lives. Research suggests that middle-school children who demonstrate lower academic performance are more likely to have snored as young children.
Since 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all children be screened for snoring, and that children who snore regularly be evaluated for sleep apnea.
Sleep experts urge parents to manage allergies, respiratory infections, and other medical issues that may be triggering sleep-disordered breathing, and to work with children from a very young age to help them develop strong sleep habits. Working with your child to make lifestyle changes can also help to stop snoring if it’s disrupting their sleep. In the case that your child or children have excess weight, losing it could help them stop snoring. Make sure they are getting regular exercise as it can be a good way to improve their fitness and breathing.
Changing their pillow can also be a more effective option, as it can shift their sleeping position so that it allows their airways to stay open. Children are less likely to snore with their head on a higher pillow, but you should test and learn to find the position that suits them.
The National Sleep Foundation offers a range of tips and advice for helping kids sleep well. One important way parents can model healthy sleep habits (and strengthen their parenting game)? Tend to their own snoring issues. There are several possible solutions available, including snoring mouthpieces, but these products should be purchased from a reputable company like ZQuiet. Getting snoring under control is a great way to strengthen the parenting game and create nighttime peace and quiet in the home.
Get more tips! Read Back to School: 10 Tips to Help Your Kids Get a Good Night’s Sleep.