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What Causes Baby Snoring and What Should You Do About It?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Have you noticed your baby snoring at night? If so, you might be wondering when it's normal to notice newborn snoring or a child breathing loudly during sleep and when may it be a sign of a larger health issue. Here's a look at some reasons for snoring in children and when you might seek help.

What Causes Newborn Snoring?

Snoring, according to the Mayo Clinic, occurs when the soft tissues of the throat are relaxed, covering the airway. When air is taken in and exhaled, the tissue vibrates, causing an audible noise. According to a report by the Cleveland Clinic, one in 10 children snore. If you notice your baby snoring every so often, it isn't necessarily cause for concern.

The Cleveland Clinic outlines some common risk factors for snoring in children, including:

  • Large tonsils or adenoids
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • A deviated septum
  • Infection in the throat
  • Sleep apnea, which is when breathing slows or stops during sleep

For some children, occasional snoring does not disrupt their sleep enough to cause concern. So, when should you seek medical or dental help for snoring in children?

Signs of Sleep Apnea

Children may not know how to tell you if they aren't getting quality sleep. However, you can keep a close eye on their symptoms to determine if they may have a more serious breathing issue. If you notice the following signs, your child may have obstructive sleep apnea, according to the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Very loud snoring
  • Snoring on most nights
  • Sleeping with the chin or neck extended and the mouth open
  • Gasping or pausing while sleeping

Speak to your pediatrician if you suspect your child may have sleep apnea.

Baby Snoring vs. Laryngomalacia

Another common sleep concern that can affect newborns is laryngomalacia.

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences explains that laryngomalacia is an abnormality usually found at birth or in the first two weeks after birth. Babies with laryngomalacia are born with a voice box that collapses when they breathe in. The result is noisy breathing (called stridor) that may get worse when the baby cries or sleeps on their back — which may sound like snoring.

This condition can be confused with newborn snoring at first, but laryngomalacia is more serious and can be identified by the following symptoms:

  • Chest pulling inward when breathing
  • Difficulty feeding and poor weight gain
  • Apnea (when breathing stops periodically)
  • Cyanosis (blue discoloration of the skin due to lack of oxygen)

The majority (90%) of cases typically resolve on their own by 20 months of age. While the cause of laryngomalacia is unknown, it's important to seek medical advice if you suspect that your newborn has it.

Your baby may snore every now and then. But, if their snoring is frequent or results in periods of apnea, or if you suspect laryngomalacia, speak to your pediatrician about your concerns as soon as possible. They can assist in diagnosing sleep issues and let you know the best course of action for you and your child.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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