As you call it a day and retire to bed, you hear snores. At first, you think it might be one of the adults in the house, but as you go near the source of the sound, you are surprised to see your child snoring.
This scenario might seem less common, but some children do snore when they are exhausted or have a common cold. If the snores are loud and disrupt your child’s sleep, it could indicate an underlying condition or a clue that your child is not getting quality sleep. However, this can be cured if the underlying cause is addressed.
If you witness such instances often, or if your child’s snores are loud and frequent, read this post to know the possible causes, other symptoms, and treatment options for snoring in children.
How Common Is Snoring In Children?
Like adults, children may also snore occasionally. A study found that snoring is common in primary school children. The study also suggests that the domestic environment and the exposure to nitrogen dioxide may play a significant role in the increased prevalence of snoring (1).
When should you be worried about snoring in your child?
Minor and short-lived snoring that doesn’t significantly affect the child’s overall well-being could be benign. If your child falls under the above category, then you need not worry. You can wait it out to see if the snoring stops on its own.
If your child has chronic snoring, that is, more than three to four nights per week, or if your child has been snoring for more than 30 months and is showing other significant signs, it is best to talk to your pediatrician (2).
You might also ask, “Why do children snore?” The next section has the answer.
Causes For Snoring In Children
Snoring occurs when the airflow through the airway is blocked when a child inhales and exhales. As a result, the tissues at the top of the airway vibrate, producing an audible sound (3).
There could be various reasons why the airway gets blocked. Here are a few of them.
- Common cold: Nasal congestion due to the common cold can cause the child to breathe through the mouth and result in snoring. Blocked nasal passages due to sinus infections can also cause snoring in children (4).
- Swollen tonsils and adenoids: When the tonsils or adenoids are swollen, they obstruct the airway, resulting in snoring. The common signs of swollen tonsils and enlarged adenoids include pauses in breathing during sleep, breathing through the mouth, stained breathing, frequent colds, and restless sleep (5).
- Obesity: Overweight children may experience snoring during sleep. Studies suggest that children who are obese develop obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is characterized by snoring. The common complications of obesity-related OSA include excessive daytime sleepiness, poor quality of life, cognitive and behavioral deficiencies, increased risk of hypertension, and cardiovascular issues (6).
- Allergies: Studies have found a relationship between allergic rhinitis and sleep impairment in children. Allergic rhinitis is associated with OSA, shorter sleep duration, poor sleep quality, grinding or clenching of teeth, and night sweating (7).
- Asthma: A cross-sectional study conducted on more than 900 preschool children suggests that snoring is associated with nocturnal cough and asthma (8).
- Environmental tobacco smoke: A meta-analysis of approximately 80,000 children found that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, particularly prenatal smoking exposure and maternal smoking, is associated with an increased risk of habitual snoring (chronic snoring for three nights per week) in children (9).
- Anatomic abnormalities: Some children are born with a deviated nasal septum, a condition wherein the septum (the bone and cartilage which divides the nasal cavity of your nose in half) is displaced. This might make breathing hard for them while sleeping and cause mouth-breathing and snoring (10).
- Reduced breastfeeding duration: A birth cohort study has found that reduced duration of breastfeeding in infancy is associated with snoring in children. Although the exact reason is unknown, the researchers suggest that the benefits of the breast in the mouth on oropharyngeal development might cut down the risk of habitual snoring (11).
It is essential to understand the causes of snoring in your child because it could lead to other complications if left untreated.
Probable Risks Of Snoring In Children
Snoring could be an indication of troubled breathing. However, the effects of snoring can be much more profound than troubled breathing. According to a study by researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, children who had trouble breathing during sleep from six months of age are more likely to develop behavioral and emotional problems by the age of seven years.
How snoring might cause behavioral problems
Children’s brains develop rapidly during childhood. If the supply of oxygen decreases at night due to snoring, it could interfere with the development of the pathways that control behavior and mood (12).
When Should You Consult A Doctor?
If your child shows signs of habitual snoring, you need to talk to your pediatrician. Additionally, if they show any of the following signs, you might need medical interventions as these may indicate sleep-disordered breathing.
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Mouth breathing
- Daytime sleepiness
- Difficulties in concentration and learning
Does Snoring Need Treatment?
Light or short-term snoring may subside on its own and may not require medical treatment. However, if your child shows additional complications, it is best to get them treated.
The treatment for snoring depends on the underlying cause.
- If the snoring is due to the common cold and nasal congestion, you can consider suctioning the nose using a bulb syringe before sleep. In the case of older children, consult your doctor, and use nasal sprays to prevent nasal pathway blockages.
- If your doctor identifies swollen tonsils or enlarged adenoids, they might recommend steroidal spray, which reduces the size of adenoids. If this does not provide any relief, they may go for the partial or total removal of the tonsils or adenoids (5).
- Encourage your child to exercise for 60 minutes daily. Also, change their diet and make sure they eat meals regularly. You can also consult your pediatrician to find a diet plan that would help them reduce weight while not missing out on nutrients.
- For nasal congestion caused by seasonal allergies, you can identify the trigger and keep your child away from it, or talk to your child’s doctor for some over-the-counter medications to clear the nasal congestion (13).
- In case your child has asthma, have an asthma action plan in place to keep the symptoms at bay. Talk to your child’s doctor and use the medications accordingly.
- Make sure the child is not exposed to passive smoking.
- If your child has a deviated septum, take them to the doctor to determine if they need surgery.
- Teach your children to follow a consistent bedtime routine and practice good sleep hygiene. Keep a rule that they should not watch the TV or use their mobile at least two hours before bedtime. Also, make sure to keep their surroundings calm and quiet during sleep.
Home Care Tips For Snoring In Children
While your child is undergoing treatment for the underlying cause, you can recommend some home care treatments to reduce snoring and help your child sleep better (14).
- Try to roll your child onto their side while sleeping, as this position might prevent the uvula from obstructing the airway.
- If your child suffers from nasal congestion, place a humidifier in the room, which may ease the stuffiness at night.
- Use an air purifier to keep the allergy-causing agents away from your child.
- You could also do a nasal rinse to help with nasal congestion.
Snoring in children can lead to complications if not dealt with early on. Often, snoring is a sign of an underlying medical problem, and parents may fail to notice snoring during the early stages. If your child feels excessively sleepy during the day or has trouble concentrating, check to see if they are snoring at night.
2. Jasneek Chawla and Karen Ann Waters; Snoring in children; Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health (2015).
3. Snoring; MedlinePlus
4. Snoring; Children’s Hospital Colorado – University of Colorado School of Medicine
5. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids: Overview; Informed Health; Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (2006)
6. Indra Narang and Joseph L. Mathew; Childhood Obesity and Obstructive Sleep Apnea; Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism (2012).
7. Jiaomei Liu, et al.; The association between allergic rhinitis and sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies; PLoS One (2020).
8. Lu Lucy, Peat Jennifer K., and Sullivan Colin E; Snoring in Preschool Children; CHEST Journal (2003).
9. Ke Sun et al.; Environmental tobacco smoke exposure and risk of habitual snoring in children: a meta-analysis; Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2008)..
10. If a Child Snores, Is Surgery the Answer?; Regents of the University of Michigan
11. Bronwyn K. Brew, et al.; Breastfeeding and Snoring: A Birth Cohort Study; PLoS One (2014).
12. Snoring in kids linked to behavioral problems; Harvard Health Publishing
13. Treatment for a Child’s Allergy to Dust or Pollen; Stanford Children’s Health
14. Snoring in Kids; Rush University Medical Center
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