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Snoring and Mouth Breathing in Children: What's Normal?

By: Sarah Bossio, Certified Pediatric Sleep Expert


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I'm getting real honest and vulnerable with you here today...

One of my biggest pet peeves at night is my husband's snoring. It sounds like nails on a chalkboard, and I know you're with me. Unfortunately, I'm not here to solve his snoring (I wish I could) but what I am here to talk about is snoring — or mouth breathing — in your child.




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Why Snoring and Mouth Breathing Occur in Children


Occasional Snoring and Mouth Breathing


I would like to preface this by saying this is not medical advice. If your child is snoring or mouth breathing, it is important to let your pediatrician know so that you can get a referral to an ENT or a sleep medicine doctor.


The long and short of it: snoring and mouth breathing are not normal.

There are going to be occasional times when your child is going to snore or mouth breathe, particularly when they are sick. We know that little kids get sick pretty often, so if your child has a viral infection, a fever, a cold, or a cough, snoring is probably going to be a symptom of that. They are all congested in their nose, and it's harder for them to breathe through their nose, so they mouth breathe. In these circumstances, snoring would be considered medically normal.



Consistent Snoring and Mouth Breathing

However, if your child is snoring and mouth breathing consistently when they are healthy, this is definitely a red flag. What could be going on? A multitude of things, but the things that your doctors and specialists are going to look for are: enlarged tonsils and adenoids.


The facial structure of our children is tiny; everything is really small. Their face hasn't grown to full size, so all of those little canals and orifices are going to be really small. It's easy for them to get inflamed; it's easy for the tonsils to be enlarged; it's easy for the adenoids to be enlarged. However, if they are too enlarged, they will start to interfere with sleep, and this can cause sleep-disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea.


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Assessing Sleep-Disordered Breathing in Your Child


Whenever I'm working with a family on their sleep, specifically getting them to sleep through the night, the first thing that I want to assess is that they do not have any sleep-disordered breathing. I want to make sure that your child isn't mouth breathing or snoring. This is a medical reason that we need to look at and solve before we start to implement any behavioral modifications to sleep. Behavioral modifications to sleep, in layman's terms, are just sleep training.


Impact on Sleep Quality


Mouth breathing and snoring can cause your child to wake up frequently throughout the night.

The reason being, they're never really in a deep sleep. If you have slept next to somebody who is a snorer (like I have a lot of experience doing) you see that the snoring increases in intensity and then gets to a point where the body almost jolts itself awake to reset the breathing. This is happening in your child, too.


Mouth breathing has the same concept going on. The reason for your children's waking may not be stemming from behavior; it can be stemming from medical issues. Getting an assessment of tonsils and adenoids could be life-changing for your child and their sleep hygiene.

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Next Steps for Concerned Parents


Seeking Medical Advice


To review, if your child is snoring or mouth breathing, I want you to start by talking to the pediatrician. Then, I would like you to get a referral to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) or a pediatric sleep medicine doctor to get them assessed and make sure that nothing is going on that is medically interfering with their sleep abilities.


Behavioral Interventions

Once you have received clearance, or you've received a diagnosis and you have managed that through medical intervention, and your child is still waking up frequently, that's the best time to call a sleep consultant to see if they can also help on the behavioral end of things to get your child's sleep on track.



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Getting Help with Sleep Training


I would love to know about your specific sleep situation. If your child is mouth breathing or snoring and you feel that is why they are waking up in the middle of the night, reach out to your pediatrician. Once you get that resolved or you get that referral to your doctor, I'd love to chat with you personally. I work with families one-on-one to help modify sleep behavior to get your child sleeping through the night. The best way to learn more is to book a free 15-minute assessment call with me.

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I release sleep topic videos once a week about toddlers, babies, big kids and newborns on my Youtube channel. Subscribe and turn on notifications to stay in the know.


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Save my blog for quick reference. It is a library of free resources available for you to use anytime.


I also host a weekly Q&A on my Instagram. Tune in or DM me there!

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Curious about sleep training? Take a look at my sleep training packages and book a free discovery call with me. Together, we'll talk through your child's sleep challenges and I'll tell you how I can help.


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Pediatric Sleep Expert Sarah Bossio sits on fun wicker chair with arms wide smiling

May your coffee be warm,

Sarah


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Sarah is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Expert based in the NY/NJ Tri-State area and has helped over 400 families worldwide get their sleep back on track.

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