Every parent wants their child to get a peaceful night's sleep. And they do everything possible to create a calm, quiet sleeping environment, free of loud noises that might wake the child up in the middle of the night.
But what do you do when it's your child's own snoring that's disrupting their slumber?
We talked with Ashok Jagasia, MD, PhD, director of RUSH Oak Park Otolaryngology, to get advice on how to soothe your child's snoring — and how to know when snoring may signal a more serious issue.
Causes of snoring
We snore when the airways in the back of our throats are blocked, limiting airflow. As the air passage opens and closes, the tissues in the throat vibrate. How loud the snore is depends on how much air passes through the airways and how fast those tissues vibrate.
The airway can be restricted for many reasons, including the following:
- Cold or infection
- Enlarged tonsils — lymph tissues at the back of the throat
- Enlarged adenoids — glands in the roof of the mouth behind the soft palate
Helping your child breathe easier
If your child snores once in a while, you can help them get some relief with these 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 your child's bedroom.
Boosting the humidity may help ease nighttime stuffiness, which can help with snoring.
3. Remove potential allergens from their bedroom.
This includes stuffed animals, and feather comforters and pillows.
4. Use an air purifier if your child has allergies.
Air purifiers can help remove allergens, such as dust and pollen, from the air. Jagasia also recommends cleaning furniture, carpeting and other surfaces frequently to avoid dust build-up.
5. Use a nasal wash of saline water to clear out your child's nasal passages.
A nasal rinse device or neti pot can help with congestion, if your child can tolerate it. Just make sure to follow the manufacturer's directions exactly (for instance, never use tap water because it's not filtered or treated).
6. Help your child maintain a healthy weight.
Obesity can contribute to snoring, Preparing healthy meals and encouraging at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity can help your child manage their weight.
Snoring with sleep apnea can have serious implications, including stress on the heart and decreased oxygen to the lungs.
When snoring is more serious
Sometimes when you snore, you can stop breathing for a short time. This is called sleep apnea.
"While it is common to snore without any consequences, snoring with sleep apnea can have serious implications, including stress on the heart and decreased oxygen to the lungs," Jagasia says. "The heart has to work harder because of the sleep apnea."
In children, Jagasia adds, sleep apnea may also be associated with delayed growth. So it's important for parents and guardians to be able to recognize the symptoms.
Symptoms of sleep apnea in kids
Nighttime signs your child might have sleep apnea include the following:
- Snoring loudly and consistently
- Pausing, snorting or stopping breathing while sleeping
- Coughing or choking in sleep
- Restlessly sleeping in unusual positions
- Sweating during sleep
"Most children snore once in a while, but consistent, loud snoring that interrupts their sleep on a regular basis can indicate bigger health issues," says Jagasia.
And look for these daytime red flags, which can also signal sleep apnea:
- Trouble waking up
- Falling asleep in class
- Behavioral, academic and social problems
- Breathing through the mouth
Pinpointing the problem
If you notice any of the above symptoms, talk to your pediatrician, who may refer you to an otolaryngologist or sleep specialist for more specialized care.
Your child may need a sleep study, spending a night in the hospital to record their sleep and wake times, brain waves, heart beat and breathing.
"This will help determine the cause of their snoring and sleep apnea," Jagasia says. "Once we figure out the underlying problem, we can then find ways to address it so they can stop snoring and get the quality sleep they need to grow up healthy."