Snoring is extremely common both in children and adults. Usually, it's not a cause for concern, however loud snoring that affects a child's sleep quality can indicate an underlying problem is to blame.
Understanding the types, causes, and treatments for snoring in children can help parents look out for their children and help them to get better quality sleep. In this post, we look at how common snoring is, its symptoms, its causes, and when to seek medical advice.
Causes of childhood snoring
The main causes of snoring in children are excess or obstructive tissue in the throat such as large tonsils and adenoids which cause the soft palate in the mouth to vibrate.
Additionally, snoring in children can be caused by:
- Nasal congestion such as a blocked nose
- Deviated Septum
- Sleep apnea
How Common Is Snoring in Children?
Most children (especially those who are 3 and older) will often snore during the deeper stages of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 30 per cent of children snore occasionally due to a blocked nose or allergies, and around 10 per cent snore regularly. Of the 10 per cent of children who snore regularly, around 2-5 per cent have obstructive sleep apnea and up to 70 per cent receive a diagnosis of sleep-disordered breathing.
When should I be concerned about my child's snoring?
If your child snores, you may be wondering if it's a sleep disorder or if it's completely normal. Below are a few symptoms to look out for if you're concerned:
Night time Symptoms
Loud snoring is associated with sleep disturbance in many children. If you've noticed that your child has especially loud snoring, you may want to schedule an appointment with your child's doctor.
Interruptions to your child's breathing
If you have noticed that your child's snoring is causing their breathing to become irregular or if your little one is waking up gasping for air, this could mean that the airway is collapsing which prevents air from getting to and from the lungs. This is a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea and is associated with poor sleep quality in children.
Mouth breathing during the night might mean that your child's nasal passages are blocked by enlarged nasal tissues, which causes them to breathe through their mouth.
Snoring can interrupt your child's sleep and cause symptoms throughout the day. If you notice any of the following it could be worth contacting your family doctor to discuss:
Struggle to wake up a child
If you struggle to wake your child up in the morning or notice that they are particularly cranky upon waking, they may not be getting a good night's sleep due to habitual snoring.
Your child is struggling to stay awake
If your child is struggling to stay awake or falls asleep frequently throughout the day, on short car trips, this could be a sign that they are struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
These symptoms can be the cause of another problem so it's important to talk to your doctor about other medical conditions that could be to blame.
Poor or inadequate sleep can cause behaviour problems in children. Children who struggle with sleep due to snoring or another issue struggle to pay attention. are less likely to think before they act and can struggle with their school performance.
What should you do if your child snores?
If your child suffers from occasional snoring, you can help them with these home remedies:
Roll your child onto their side
If your child has fallen asleep on their back, their airways can get obstructed by their Uvula and this can cause snoring. It's best to move them onto their side where this is less common.
Use a humidifier in your child's bedroom
If your child's bedroom is particularly stuffy, consider using a humidifier to help ease the conditions and help alleviate their snoring.
Remove potential allergens from their bedroom
If your child's bed is laden with stuffed animals, comforters, and pillows these all can attract dust and this can be detrimental if they suffer from allergies.
When to contact your child's doctor
If your little one has a cold and is snoring for a few days, there may not be a need to alert the doctor. However if your children snore regularly or if you are concerned for your child's health by their snoring, you should follow up with their doctor to see if a sleep study or ENT referral is needed.
If your child is referred to an ENT doctor, they will look at your child's air passage and evaluate it for any abnormalities. If your doctor is unable to get to the root of the cause, your child may need to take part in a sleep study to evaluate for anything more serious such as sleep apnea.
A sleep study can help to understand the problem so that your doctor can work with you and your child to improve their quality of sleep.
You should get in contact with your doctor if:
- Your child snores more than half the week.
- Your child seems to gasp or have trouble breathing while sleeping.
- Your child seems tired during the day.
- Your child complains of frequent headaches.
- Your child is experiencing behavioural problems or is struggling to stay focused.