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What Causes Snoring in Children?

I’ve written before about the adorable (if odd) noises my daughter makes in her sleep. Sometimes she snorts and grunts like an old man with a smoker’s lung, though it has gotten better as she’s gotten older. The other night she fell asleep on me – a real rarity now that she’s six months old – and I got to witness those noises again. She snorted rhythmically against my chest, and I called my husband over, gesturing for him to listen. “Oh! She’s snoring,” he said. “So cute!” It was cute. But being the neurotic millennial mom that I am, I decided to do some Internet research so that I could stop wondering and feeling concerned around my question, “is it normal for children to snore?” Turns out that my daughter’s snoring was potentially scary cute.

What Causes Snoring In Children?

There are several potential causes of my daughter’s snoring which included:

  • Large tonsils and adenoids
  • Throat or respiratory infections
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Deviated septum
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Child Sleep Apnea

Long-term snoring in children and babies can signal serious problems, like obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

Sleep apnea occurs when your airway becomes too narrow for enough air to pass through, which leads to an actual pause in breathing that ranges from a few seconds to a minute. Your brain responds by waking you up with a snort or gasp to jumpstart the breathing process. One of the most significant outcomes of sleep apnea in children is poor sleep quality.

If you have a baby or young child, you already know that when your little one is on a nap or sleep strike, they tend to be in a terrible, cranky mood. Because sleep apnea causes a person to wake up frequently through the night, children with sleep apnea can become even more sleep deprived – and if your baby sleeps through the night, you might not even know that she is actually getting very low-quality sleep.

Red Flags of Sleep Apnea

If you notice any of the below, consider speaking with your child’s physician:

  • Your child snores most nights of the week
  • You frequently hear snoring during the night and its noisy
  • You hear your child pause or gasp for air while sleeping
  • Your child routinely sleeps with his or her mouth open, and chin or neck extended

Allergies and Snoring in Children

Snoring isn’t the only risk factor for sleep apnea, and snoring and excessive crankiness by themselves don’t necessarily mean a child does have sleep apnea. Allergies and other local issues can also lead to snoring in children. I have a friend whose child turned out to be allergic to their cat – once they said goodbye to their feline friend, their child immediately started sleeping better!

Learn more: Read “Allergies Got Your Sleep?”

Is It Normal For Babies To Snore?

The most important thing to know is that snoring isn’t necessarily normal in babies and children. Many parents are like my husband and I, who think that baby snoring is just another adorable part of babyhood, but the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that you discuss excessive snoring or strange breathing patterns with your child’s doctor.

It turns out that my daughter’s snoring was caused by a cold – her first cold, which meant that none of us really slept for a few nights. I asked our pediatrician about it, and she said that occasional snoring isn’t anything to be worried about. Sometimes I miss the little gremlin noises my daughter used to make, but the older she gets the better she sleeps – and now that I’ve checked out her snoring noises, so do I.

If you are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, snoring can become a problem for you, too! Read “Pregnancy Snoring: What to Expect When You Are Expecting.”

Helping your child breathe easier at night

If your child snores some nights and you don’t feel like it's a cause for concern, you can help them get some relief with these simple home remedies.

  1. Roll your child onto their side to sleep: When you sleep on your back, the uvula can move to the back of the throat and partially obstruct the airway.
  2. Place a humidifier in their bedroom: Increasing the humidity in the room can help ease nighttime stuffiness, which can help with snoring.
  3. Remove potential allergens: Be mindful to remove too many stuffed animals, and feather comforters and pillows. Shop for anti-allergy bedding.
  4. Consider an air purifier if your child has allergies: Air purifiers can help remove dust and pollen from the air. Frequently clean and wipe down furniture, carpeting and surfaces to avoid the build-up of dust.
  5. Use a nasal wash of saline water to clear out your child’s nasal passages: A nasal rinse device or also known as a neti pot can help with congestion. Be sure to consult their pediatrician before using one.
  6. Help your child maintain a healthy weight: Obesity often contributes to snoring. Prepare nutritious meals and encourage them to get 30-60 minutes of daily physical activity, they often do at school or by playing sports.
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