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Snoring is an easily recognizable snorting or rattling sound that some people make when they are asleep. Most of us will snore occasionally, particularly if we have a blocked nose, but some people snore every night. Even a small child can have a very loud snore, which can be very annoying for any siblings who are sharing their bedroom. It can even be loud enough for the snorer to wake themselves up at night, particularly if there are other issues, such as problems with their breathing.
Snoring happens when the soft palate and other tissue in the mouth or airway is vibrated by the air passing in and out of the lungs. It doesn't happen when we are awake because our airways aren't as relaxed. Once we are asleep, the airway becomes more flexible, which makes it more likely to move and make noises when we are breathing. Some people are more likely to snore than others. Conditions such as sleep apnoea, which causes the throat to relax more than normal, can cause snoring. Abnormalities with the structure of the airway, such as a deviated septum, can make people snore at night too. Having a blocked nose or an infection that narrows the airways can also make us snore, although the snoring should go away once the infection has gone.
It is a good idea to get a medical opinion when a child snores most of the time. Occasional snoring is nothing to worry about, but it is unusual for a young child to snore regularly. It is particularly important to see a doctor if snoring is disturbing your child's sleep by waking them up at night. Disturbed sleep can have a big impact on children's mood and progress at school, so it is important to seek medical advice to solve the problem. You should also see a doctor if you think that the snoring is linked to problems with your child's breathing at night. Snoring that happens on many nights, but only at a few points during the night, or which is associated with gasping or other breathing difficulties could be a sign of sleep apnoea.
Finding out why your child is snoring is important. Snoring can sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition that could be serious if it goes untreated. The doctor will ask about your child's snoring and any other symptoms you might have noticed. A physical exam will usually be carried out and your child may need some additional tests too, such as lung function tests.
Sometimes the doctor will be able to identify a specific cause of the snoring, such as sleep apnoea, a respiratory infection or an allergy. Your child will then be able to receive treatment for the underlying condition, which should help to improve their snoring. It will also tackle any other issues, such as breathing difficulties, that you might not have noticed on their own.
However, in many cases, a snore is just a snore. The doctor often won't be able to identify a specific reason why your child snores. Making some lifestyle changes could help to stop the snoring if it is disrupting your child's sleep. If your child is carrying any excess weight, then losing this could help to stop them from snoring. Getting some regular exercise can be a good way to improve children's fitness and breathing.
Anti-snoring devices can sometimes help with snoring, but they don't address the cause of snoring and many of the devices that are available in shops are designed for adults. Wearing a child-sized mouth guard or nasal strip may help to stop your child snoring, but it could take some time to get used to and they aren't always suitable for younger children. Changing your child's pillow might be a more effective option, as it could shift their sleeping position into one that allows their airways to stay more open. Generally, children are less likely to snore when their head is on a higher pillow, but you can experiment to find the position that suits your child best.
Surgery is sometimes recommended to treat snoring in children, but it can only help if there is a structural issue that can be fixed. For example, a deviated septum can often be corrected with surgery, which can also help your child to breathe more easily. Another common cause of snoring in children is enlarged tonsils or adenoid glands, which can also be responsible for breathing difficulties at night. These enlarged glands can be removed surgically, removing the blockage that was causing problems for your child's breathing.