Lots of children snore in their sleep. Snoring can have several causes, many of which are nothing to worry about.
Your child might snore – or snore more loudly – if he has a cold or a blocked nose. This is because colds can narrow your child’s airways. If your child has large tonsils, he might also be prone to snoring.
If your child’s snoring goes on for a long time, especially if your child also breathes through her mouth or seems to gasp, choke or struggle for breath, it might be a sign of sleep apnoea (also called obstructive sleep apnoea). This is when your child stops breathing during sleep.
Sleep apnoea is often caused by enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils. It’s also linked to obesity.
Aside from the snoring sound, you can look out for mouth breathing and any signs of your child gasping or struggling for breath.
When to see your doctor
You should take your child to the doctor if your child’s snoring has been going on for a long time, or if you’ve noticed him gasping or struggling for breath during sleep. If your child has sleep apnoea, is very tired during the day and has poor concentration at school, he should see a doctor.
Your doctor might recommend that your child uses an ‘oximeter’. This tool measures your child’s oxygen levels during the night to determine whether there are any periods when she stops breathing.
Also, your child might need to undergo a sleep study (‘polysomnography’). This involves staying overnight in hospital (with a parent), so that breathing, heart rate, oxygen level, brain, eye and muscle activity can be monitored.
Snoring is usually more of a nuisance than a danger. Encouraging your child to sleep on his side, rather than his back, might lead to some improvement.
If your child’s snoring is linked to sleep apnoea caused by enlarged adenoids and/or tonsils, your doctor might refer you to a surgeon to consider having the adenoids and tonsils surgically removed.
If obesity is an associated cause, your doctor will recommend a weight and exercise program.