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Snoring in Children

We all know what snoring sounds like, but many of us don’t know exactly what causes this noise. According to Yale Medicine1, this harsh, noisy breathing happens when the muscles in the back of the throat and mouth relax during sleep. 

This relaxation happens for everybody, but in some people or some instances, the airway in the throat narrows so much that it impacts the free flow of air. This causes the loose throat muscles to vibrate, which leads to that pleasant sound. 

Almost everybody snores at some point2, but chronic or very loud snoring may point to a deeper problem. This is especially true in children, as this type of snoring is less common for them. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about your child’s snoring – how common it is, the causes and concerns, and how you can treat it. 

How Common is Childhood Snoring?

About 10 percent3 of children snore regularly. To put this into perspective, about 25 percent of adults4 snore regularly.  

The reason childhood snoring is less common is that some of the most prevalent causes of snoring are typically thought of as “adult things.” For example, excess weight or obesity, hormonal changes during pregnancy, an age-related decrease in muscle tone, alcohol consumption, or use of certain medications like benzodiazepines5 – these can all increase the risk for snoring.1 

This means if your child is snoring loudly and regularly, it could point to an underlying issue and should be taken seriously. 

Read More: Beds Mattress for Kids and Best Mattress for Snoring


Childhood Snoring Causes

Since young children are unlikely to be consuming alcohol or facing an age-related decrease in muscle tone, what, exactly, is the cause for their snoring? According to Cleveland Clinic6, there are several potential causes. 

Enlarged Tonsils and Adenoids

This is the most common cause of chronic snoring in children.6 What happens is that the enlarged tonsils or adenoids narrow the airway as the throat muscles relax during sleep, which results in snoring. The good news, though, is that tonsils and adenoids can be surgically removed if they are impacting sleep, and this surgery is quite common in children7

Allergies

Children may be allergic to any number of things – dust mites, pet dander, pollen, or other irritants – and they can all trigger symptoms like inflammation and nasal congestion. This congestion can cause occasional snoring in kids.6

Asthma

Asthma is relatively common, affecting roughly six million children8 in the United States. Along with coughing, a tight-feeling chest, and frequent colds that settle in the chest, snoring can be a common symptom of asthma.8 This is because asthma can create swollen and constricted airways, along with increased mucus production.6

Deviated Septum

The septum is what runs down the center of your nose to divide it into a left and right side. It is made up of cartilage and bone, and in about 80 percent of people, the septum can be crooked, or “deviated”.6 For some, this condition is present at birth; for others, it can develop over time or be caused by an injury. 

Usually, a deviated septum will only cause minimal issues, but if it is causing major issues or sleepless nights, septoplasty surgery is an option.6 

Weight Gain

Excess weight is one of the top causes of snoring and sleep apnea in adults.2 As childhood obesity is on the rise9, this is a growing cause of snoring in children as well.

Excess weight can cause snoring because the fatty tissue in the neck area puts pressure on the throat while your child is sleeping. With the throat muscles already relaxed, this can create an airway constriction, which can then lead to snoring or sleep apnea. 

Read More about the connection between weight and sleep.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea10 is a sleep disorder in which the breathing continuously starts and stops throughout the night. This can either be caused by an obstruction (obstructive sleep apnea) or by a miscommunication between the brain and the muscles that control breathing (central sleep apnea). In either case, snoring is one of the most common symptoms.10 

While sleep apnea is more common in adults, about 1 to 5 percent of children experience obstructive sleep apnea11, and less than 5 percent have central sleep apnea12

Learn more about sleep apnea in our in-depth guide.


Should I Be Worried If My Child Snores?

If you notice that your child occasionally snores when their allergies act up or if they’re sick, this is likely nothing to worry about and should go away with treatment or when they’re feeling better. 

However, if it is more than that, experts say childhood snoring could point to more serious issues. Here are some indicators that your child’s snoring is a problem: 

  • Your child snores most nights of the week6
  • Their snoring is very loud6
  • They routinely sleep with their mouth open or neck extended6
  • You hear your child’s breathing pause or they gasp for air at night6
  • Their snoring is accompanied by bedwetting, heartburn, night sweats, or frequent arm or leg movements while sleeping6
  • If your child seems tired but wired13 during the day
  • If they have trouble focusing at school13
  • If they are excessively sleepy during the day13
  • If they are hard to wake up in the mornings13

These symptoms could be a sign of sleep apnea. According to the University of Michigan Medicine, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common cause of this sort of habitual, problematic snoring.13. If left untreated, OSA can lead to daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver issues, complications with medications, and of course, a sleep-deprived household.10


How Can I Get My Child to Stop Snoring?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for your child’s snoring as it will depend on the underlying issue. Below we’ll go over some options, depending on whether your child’s snoring is caused by something temporary like allergies or a more serious condition like sleep apnea. 

  • Nasal sprays or rinses – Occasional snoring that is caused by allergies can usually be treated with allergy medications like nasal steroid sprays14 or rinses to reduce the swelling and inflammation in the nose
  • Tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy – If your child’s snoring is caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids, they may need to be removed.14 This surgery is more common in children than adults and is considered quite safe.7 
  • Weight loss – If your child is overweight or obese, your doctor may recommend that they make some lifestyle changes to get to a healthier weight. This will include eating healthier and increasing their exercise. Obesity is one of the main causes of sleep apnea, so if this is the cause of your child’s snoring, you’ll want to treat this root cause of the issue immediately.14 
  • Remove allergy triggers – This might include removing stuffed animals, feather or down pillows and comforters, or pets from their bedroom.14. Additionally, you should make sure they’re not eating anything they’re allergic to as this can cause swelling in the throat15. Consider exploring our picks for the best mattresses for allergies.
  • Septoplasty procedure – This surgical procedure is done to correct a deviated septum. If your child is not overweight and snores regularly, it may be because of tonsils, adenoids, allergies, or a deviated septum.6 Ask your pediatrician to do an examination to find out the source. 
  • CPAP or BiPAP Therapy – If your child is snoring because they have sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend they use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This device provides pressurized air through a mask to help keep the airway open at night. A BiPAP machine is similar, but it provides different levels of pressure during exhalation and inhalation, which may be more comfortable for some kids.14 
  • Change their sleep position – If there are no serious underlying issues, fixing your child’s snoring may be as simple as having them sleep on their side or stomach rather than back.14
  • Breathing strips – Breathing strips can work for some people who experience occasional or light snoring.14 
  • Avoid heavy meals just before bedtime – Like breathing strips, avoiding a heavy meal before bedtime could help children who only snore rarely or lightly. If your child snores loudly and regularly, though, this probably won’t help.14 
  • Use a humidifier – Some experts recommend16 putting a humidifier in your child’s room, as this can keep the air moist and reduce irritation in the nasal passages. 
  • Avoid dairy before bed – Dairy can increase congestion and phlegm, so encourage your child to avoid dairy before bedtime.16 
  • Establish a consistent bedtime ritual – Your child should go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to get the best sleep possible. You can also improve their sleep by establishing a regular bedtime ritual that helps them wind down before bed. For example, a nightly bath, reading a book, perhaps some relaxing music – all of these things can help improve sleep quality and, in turn, possibly reduce snoring.16
  • Encourage them to stay hydrated – Teach your child to drink plenty of water (not sugary drinks) throughout the day. This should help them stay hydrated and reduce congestion, which can contribute to snoring.16 
  • Don’t smoke around your child – Secondhand smoke can cause inflammation in the airways and increase the risk of snoring. If your child is at an age where they might try smoking, be sure they’re aware of smoking’s detrimental, long-term effects17

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common cause of snoring in childhood?

The most common cause of habitual, problematic snoring is obstructive sleep apnea, and in children, this is usually caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids.13 Luckily, these can easily be removed via surgery if they are seriously impacting your child’s ability to breathe while sleeping. 

Is it normal for a 7-year-old to snore?

It is considered normal for a seven-year-old to snore on occasion if they have something like allergies or a cold. However, if your seven-year-old snores loudly or all the time, this is not considered normal and could be due to an underlying condition like enlarged tonsils or adenoids, excess weight or obesity, asthma, a deviated septum, or sleep apnea.6 If your child is snoring, you should speak to their pediatrician. 

Are asthma and snoring related?

If your child has asthma, their chances of snoring are greater because asthma can cause inflammation and congestion in the airways.6 However, snoring doesn’t necessarily point to asthma; snoring can be due to all sorts of factors, from allergies to a deviated septum and more. 

To find out what is causing the snoring, speak to your doctor. This should help you to treat the issue at the source.

Natalie G.

Natalie G.

Writer

About Author

Natalie is a content writer for Sleep Advisor with a deep passion for all things health and a fascination with the mysterious activity that is sleep. Outside of writing about sleep, she is a bestselling author, improviser, and creative writing teacher based out of Austin.

Combination Sleeper

    Resources

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  • 2. “Snoring”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified December 22, 2017.
  • 3. “Snoring in children: When should you be concerned?”. Texas Children’s Hospital. Webpage accessed October 31, 2024.
  • 4. “Why Do People Snore? Answers for Better Health”. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Webpage accessed October 31, 2024.
  • 5. “How to silence snoring”. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020.
  • 6. “Does Your Child Snore? These Could Be the Reasons Why”. Cleveland Clinic. 2024.
  • 7. “Removing Tonsils and Adenoids: Right for Your Child?”. Cleveland Clinic. 2019.
  • 8. “Asthma in Children”. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Webpage accessed October 31, 2024.
  • 9. “Childhood Obesity Facts”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified May 17, 2022.
  • 10. “Sleep Apnea”. Mayo Clinic. Last modified April 6, 2024.
  • 11. Paruthi, Shalini. “Evaluation of suspected obstructive sleep apnea in children”. UpToDate. Last modified October 13, 2024.
  • 12. Ghirardo, Sergio., Amaddeo, Alessandro., et al. “Central apnea and periodic breathing in children with underlying conditions”. Journal of Sleep Research. 2021.
  • 13. Marcy, Lauren. “Signs Your Child’s Snoring Should Be Taken Seriously”. Michigan Medicine. 2018.
  • 14. “Snoring”. Children’s Hospital Colorado. Webpage accessed October 31, 2024.
  • 15. “Food Allergies: What You Need to Know”.U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Webpage accessed October 31, 2024.
  • 16. “Silence the Snore: The Ultimate Guide to Stopping Snoring in Kids”. Penn Medicine. Webpage accessed October 31, 2024.
  • 17. “Smoking & Tobacco Use”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified April 28, 2020.