Is It Normal For Babies To Snore And Snort?

Baby Snoring

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It’s an ethereal joy for a mother to see her little one sleep. With his tummy full and eyes filled with sleep, the baby is all contended. He seems to be travelling to the worlds unknown, and there is tranquillity all around him.

But imagine a disturbing sound creating ripples among those tender moments. It is the sound of your baby snoring. You would find it cute to see your baby, snore but if it recurs, it might be a bit unsettling. We, usually, do not associate snoring with babies. However, snoring and even snorting do happen in babies. What could be the reason for this?

MomJunction explains the probable causes for a baby snoring and snorting regularly, and the ways to deal with it. So let’s begin.

Are Snoring And Snorting Normal In Babies?

Yes, they are normal in most cases. Snoring occurs when the airway in the throat gets obstructed or constricted, making the inhaled air to vibrate the throat tissues. One in ten babies snore nearly every night and infant snoring is considered a normal event (1). The baby’s muscles, including neck muscles, relax during sleep, thus pressing against the posterior wall of the airways causing the baby to snore. Snorting is another sound the baby will make when he is suffering from clogged airways. It is a complementary sound to snoring.

Babies breathe the moment they are born. Therefore, do not be surprised if your newborn snores or snorts. However, you need to know about the circumstances under which snoring can be serious.

What Causes Snoring And Snorting In Babies?

The frequency and chances of a baby snoring and snorting diminish as he grows older. In spite of that, it can be induced due to certain anomalies and could be a symptom of a medical condition:

1. Obstructive sleep apnea:

This is a leading cause of snoring among babies. Obstructive sleep apnea happens when a baby’s airway is partially or completely obstructed due to the anterior section of the airway pressing against the posterior section. The air that passes through the airway then vibrates the neck tissues causing snoring.

Sleep apnea is often caused by the accumulation of mucus in the baby’s airways or due to other problems like enlarged adenoids or tonsils that we elaborate later.

Symptoms: Snoring on a daily basis is one symptom of sleep apnea. The baby wakes up with a start at least once during the sleep, gasping for breath and suffocated. It is accompanied by snorting, sometimes.

During day time, he may appear excessively sleepy without any other medical issue.

Treatment: Babies have developing brains, which cannot be devoid of oxygen even for a few seconds. Therefore, the condition has to be brought to swift medical attention. A doctor will look at the underlying cause for sleep apnea (obstruction, mucus, etc.) and suggest a treatment. Surgery is required only in a few extreme cases. Usually, the snoring subsides without any invasive medical intervention.

[ Read : Sleep Apnea In Babies ]

2. Blocked nostrils:

Blocked nostrils are common among babies since infants do not yet have the capability to blow the mucus out of their nose. A blocked nostril can also happen due to more serious problems like choanal atresia (2). It is a congenital condition where the back of a nostril is blocked by a bony or cartilaginous structure. This may result in a sparse flow of air through the nose, making the baby snore during sleep. There is also a condition called deviated nasal septum, where one nasal passage is straight while the other one is crooked. This narrows the passage of one nostril and may lead to snoring and snorting.

Symptoms: The baby may show discomfort in breathing and have a runny nose all the time. A constricted nasal passage may make the baby breathe from the mouth.

Treatment: Surgery can correct the condition by removing the bony structure that obstructs the nostril. If the bone cannot be removed, a hole is drilled into the bone and a stent is inserted to prevent regrowth. For deviated nasal septum, surgery can easily straighten the nasal passages. If the baby’s nose is blocked by mucus, then a medical practitioner will remove it using a nasal pump.

3. Enlarged adenoids or tonsils:

An infection of adenoids and tonsils can cause constricting pressure on the airways (3). Like mentioned earlier, this can lead to sleep apnea.

Both adenoid and tonsils are part of the lymphatic system, that plays a major role in protecting the respiratory system from infections but they are themselves vulnerable to infections. An infected adenoid or tonsil will expand in size and obstruct the tiny airway of the baby, causing him to snore and snort.

Symptoms: An enlarged tonsil can be easily spotted near the lateral side of the throat inside the baby’s mouth. Adenoid is not visible through the mouth and an enlargement can be diagnosed through symptoms like chronic mouth breathing, open jaw and troubled breathing through the nose.

Treatment: Tonsil and adenoid infections can be treated with antibiotic medication. In the case of severe infections, the tissue may have to be surgically removed.

4. Genetic and neuromuscular disorders:

A baby may snore due to weak muscle tone and facial features caused by genetic disorders such as down syndrome. This condition causes enlarged tongue, flattened nose and smaller jaw – all that may constrict the airways. Some neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy loosen the tongue muscles causing it to fall back and obstruct the airway (4).

Symptoms: A baby will show other classic symptoms of these genetic and neuromuscular disorders. Snoring itself is not a leading symptom of these disorders.

Treatment: There is usually no treatment for these conditions but parents can learn to manage these conditions with training by a medical practitioner.

[ Read: Baby Sweating While Sleeping ]

5. Asthma and allergies:

Asthma and allergies can also trigger snoring and snorting although they may not be a staunch symptom of asthma (5). Asthma often has a direct connection with respiratory allergies, and thus allergy-induced asthma may lead to snoring.

Symptoms: The baby will show all the other major symptoms of asthma such as shortness of breath and quick fatigue while playing.

Treatment: Asthma cannot be treated but can be effectively managed with easy-to-administer respiratory medicines.

6. Cold and drooling:

Cold may also cause a baby to snore due to the accumulation of mucus in the nostril. This leads to nasal congestion, which can cause airway constriction, thus making the baby snore during sleep. At the same time, when a baby is teething he may salivate a lot and this drool can trickle to his nasal cavity when he is lying on his back.

Symptoms: If he has a cold then, he will definitely show other symptoms of a cold such as a runny nose and perhaps mild fever. If he is teething, then he will drool a lot.

Treatment: A simple nasal pump and saline solution can be used under medical supervision to treat the nasal blockage.

Each of these conditions can be effectively diagnosed by a doctor. Once your baby is on course with the treatment, you need to ensure that he gets the medicines on time. While these conditions warrant medical attention, there are certain situations where you must not waste a single precious moment and take your little one to a doctor quickly.

When It Sounds Like Snoring But It Is Not?

There could be times when the baby seems to be snoring, but the sound actually originates from the baby’s throat. This is called stridor, which is the medical term for noisy breathing.

Stridor is quite commonly caused by laryngomalacia, which is a predominantly congenital condition, where the soft cartilaginous lining atop the upper larynx begins to fold inwards eventually collapsing into the airway. The baby will usually breathe noisily with a sound that resembles snoring. It originates from the larynx, where air meets resistance due to constriction causing the vibration of the tissue.

Symptoms: The major symptom of laryngomalacia is noisy breathing and loud snoring-like sound from the throat when the baby is asleep. The baby may even wheeze while breathing out and snore while breastfeeding or just after being fed. It happens because babies do not have an ability to swallow and breathe simultaneously as the larynx is positioned higher in their neck (6).

Constricted larynx causes the sound when the baby breathes during feeding. Keep in mind, though, that it is not exactly snoring since the vibrations are much lower down the airway than they are in actual snoring.

Treatment: Laryngomalacia often cures on its own, and in most cases, no medical intervention is required. Besides being congenital, this condition can be triggered by gastroesophageal reflux in which case the regurgitated acid inflames the cartilages of larynx causing them to collapse and constrict breathing. A doctor will thus treat reflux to alleviate the laryngeal inflammation. In severe cases, a surgery called supraglottoplasty may be required. It involves trimming of the excess fold tissue and making more room for the air to pass.

[ Read: Sleeping Positions For Babies ]

When To Rush To A Doctor?

Following are some scenarios when you must promptly take your baby to a doctor:

  1. When the breathing is erratic: If he stops breathing for several seconds while snoring, then there is definitely something serious going on and you must not wait for his snoring to subside on its own. Staying breathless, even for few moments, can have an adverse impact on the baby’s internal organs.
  1. When he snores and snorts frequently/every time he sleeps: Some amount of snoring and snorting is normal but if he does it every time he sleeps and does so for weeks and months, then it could be an indicator of an underlying medical problem.
  1. When the sound of snoring and snorting is shrill or too loud: You know something is not right when the snoring sounds like a noise that pierces your ears. Loud snoring for a tiny baby is not normal and you should let a doctor take a look.
  1. When snoring is interfering with his sleep: If snoring keeps him awake or makes it difficult for him to get a continuous block of sleep, then get him checked by a doctor. Something could be bothering him deep down.

Tips To Control A Baby’s Snoring And Snorting

Here are some basic procedures that you can follow to control snoring and snorting in your baby:

  1. Make him sleep in the correct position: The best thing you can do is to make him sleep in the correct position. Adults are usually recommended to sleep on their side to prevent snoring but this position is not safe for the baby so never try that out. The best position for your baby’s sleeping is on his back. When lying on his back, you can tilt his head in one direction to mitigate the chances of airway constriction. Keep alternating with different tilt sides.
  1. Keep allergens away: Maintaining a clean sleeping environment helps prevent exposure to potential allergens that may cause cold, allergies and other respiratory problems that lead to snoring and snorting. Keep his sleeping room well ventilated.
  1. Use a humidifier if conditions are dry: Dry air can irritate the baby’s developing airways and if the air is too dry you can consider using a humidifier. Humidifiers are devices that pump water vapor in the air to maintain an optimum level of humidity for easy breathing. It does not treat snoring and snorting but can help make breathing comfortable for the baby.

Do not attempt any remedies or over-the-counter snoring medicines as they are not meant for babies. Some snoring is okay but if the condition is chronic and the snoring and snorting get noisier every day, then take him for medical supervision.

Do you have an experience on baby snoring and snorting? Do share it with us by leaving a comment below.

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Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo took writing as a profession right after finishing his MBA in Marketing. Earlier he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Botany & Zoology from the autonomous St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. Rohit has also done a Stanford University certification course on breastfeeding. This botanist-zoologist turned writer excels at life sciences, and at MomJunction he writes everything about pediatrics and maternal care. In between writing and being overly curious, he spends time cooking, reading, and playing video games. LinkedIn profile – linkedin.com/in/rohit-garoo-263115aa
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