Snoring in Infants: Causes, Side-effects & Remedies
You are likely to find yourself oscillating between joy and worry when your child is young. While parenthood is primarily marked by happy and memorable moments, it also brings with it constant anxieties, such as wondering whether you are doing the right thing or not, why your child is sick, whether or not his behaviour is normal, and so on. One of these potential worries could arise when you see your baby snore frequently.
Do Babies Snore?
Yes, babies can snore. Snoring in infants is often caused by the natural anatomy of their airways and is usually not a cause for concern. However, persistent or loud snoring, accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty breathing or poor weight gain, should be discussed with a healthcare professional to rule out any potential underlying issues.
Is Snoring in Babies Normal?
A newborn snoring in his sleep can be quite adorable, but if your baby snores on a regular basis, you might start to worry. A baby snoring while sleeping is a normal occurrence; about one in ten babies are prone to this condition. This usually happens when a newborn’s airways are immature and are constricted by mucus.
Snoring in babies happens as a result of some obstruction in the airway of the throat. When the air that is inhaled cannot move freely, it causes the surrounding tissues in the throat to vibrate. The loudness depends on the air passing through the throat and how fast the tissues vibrate. The common reasons for snoring in babies are a blocked nose, their still-developing airways, or a cold. At times, the baby’s throat muscles relax while in deep sleep and the emanating sound seems like a snore.
Most babies stop snoring as they grow older. However, in case they don’t, the snoring could be an indicator of several underlying health conditions such as:
- Sleep Apnea: Commonly seen in babies younger than a year, it refers to a condition in which breathing stops and starts involuntarily during sleep. Infant sleep apnea is an associated breathing disorder (1).
- Enlarged Tonsils: Although it is a rare occurrence in newborns and babies, enlarged tonsils can be one of the reasons why babies snore. When the baby’s tonsils become enlarged due to an infection, it can lead to snoring. Also known as obstructive apnea, it can lead to shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing through the nose, and noisy breathing, along with snoring (2).
- Deviated Septum: In this condition, the nasal septum, which divides the nasal cavity into two, deviates from the centre, making one nostril larger than the other. If the unevenness is severe, it is called a deviated septum, which may lead to other conditions like sinus infections, snoring, a blocked nose, loud breathing during sleep, etc.
- Stuffy Nose: This is one of the most common causes of snoring in babies. When a baby has a stuffy nose as a result of a cold, the nasal blockage will make him breathe through his mouth and he may breathe faster than usual. Nasal congestion can also cause him to snore or breathe loudly while he is asleep (3).
- Asthma: Babies who snore are considered twice as likely to have asthma as compared to their peers who don’t. In some babies, it might be respiratory allergies causing this (4).
- Throat Problems: Irregular movement of the palate, which is the separator between the oral and nasal cavity, can cause babies to snore. Cysts are another reason for snoring in babies.
- Apnea of Prematurity: This problem is seen in babies who are born prematurely, usually within 34 weeks of pregnancy. A premature baby can develop breathing problems owing to an immature respiratory system. It then brings on snoring (5).
Is Snoring a Sign of a Disease or an Illness?
Snoring in babies can indicate various issues, from enlarged tonsils to sleep apnea. It can have an impact on your child’s quality of sleep, leading to further issues with growth and development. Sleep deprivation can result in poor weight gain, obesity, night terrors, ADHD, under-eye circles, and bedwetting, among others. If your baby is a habitual snorer and also shows little weight gain, besides being a poor eater, then it is possible that the underlying cause is a problem with his throat, lung, or heart.
If snoring persists in babies for a long time, it might result in issues such as:
- Lack of concentration and poor memory
- Stunted social development as the baby grows up
- Anxiety and irritability
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Low levels of activity and feeling sleepy during the day
If your baby’s snoring is caused by a medical or congenital condition, then treating that cause will treat the problem of snoring. However, if other reasons are the causes and you are wondering how to deal with your baby’s snoring problem, you can try some of the following remedies:
- Adjust Your Baby’s Sleeping Position: Try changing your baby’s position while he is asleep. A lot of infants tend to snore when they are asleep on their back or on their tummy. Sleeping on the side seems to stop snoring in some children. That said, the best position for babies is on their back, so you could try tilting his head to one side and check if that helps. You must tilt his head from one side to the other frequently. Slightly inclining your baby’s head with a pillow can help ease congestion and help him sleep better.
- Eliminate Allergens: Ensure that your baby’s room is clean and dust-free to prevent colds, nasal congestion, and other respiratory problems that can lead to snoring or snorting. Do not use thick carpets or heavy curtains which are dust magnets.
- Get a Humidifier: If the air inside your house is dry, it can irritate your baby’s immature airways. Using a humidifier can help maintain the humidity of the room at optimum levels whenever the baby is sleeping. This will help him breathe better, which will prevent him from snoring and snorting.
- Use a Nasal Aspirator: Regularly cleaning your baby’s nose with an aspirator can eliminate the mucus inside his nose and clear the nasal passage. Use a saline spray as per the recommended dosage, after consulting with a paediatrician.
- Let the Baby Inhale Steam: Hold your baby in your arms and stand in the bathroom. Switch on the warm shower, and let the steam rise. Once the steam gets into your baby’s airways, it will do away with the blockage that might be causing breathing problems.
Note: Do not give your baby any over-the-counter medication for snoring, unless it is prescribed by your paediatrician.
When Does It Sound Like Baby Is Snoring But He Is Not?
Sometimes, parents may notice sounds that resemble snoring in their babies, leading them to believe that their little ones are snoring. However, there are several reasons why it may sound like a baby is snoring when, in fact, they are not. Understanding these factors can help parents distinguish between normal sounds and potential concerns.
1. Positional Noises
The position in which a baby sleeps can influence the sounds they make. Sleeping on their back, as recommended for safety, may lead to more audible breathing sounds. Sometimes, adjusting the baby’s sleeping position slightly can alter the noise level (6).
2. Normal Breathing Sounds
The natural sounds of a baby’s breathing can be mistaken for snoring. Babies often have irregular breathing patterns, and occasional noises during sleep are usually part of normal respiratory development. These sounds can include soft whistles, grunts, or sighs.
Laryngomalacia is a frequently observed condition in newborns, characterized by the descent of laryngeal (voice box) tissues into the airway during a baby’s inhalation, resulting in audible breathing sounds, commonly known as stridor (7).
When to Visit a Doctor?
It can take a while for your baby’s snoring problem to be resolved. During this time, it is important that you keep a close watch on your baby to ensure that he is not in any danger. If you notice any of the following signs, take your baby to the doctor immediately:
- Erratic Breathing: At any time, if you notice that your baby’s breathing stops while snoring, even if it is for just a second or two, you must take him to a doctor. It can be a serious issue, and not breathing even for such a short time can adversely impact your baby’s internal organs.
- Interrupted Sleep: If your baby snores habitually, he may not be getting proper sleep. If he struggles to sleep at a stretch, then you should seek help. Sleep deprivation can have wide-ranging repercussions on his growth and development.
- Snorting and Snoring Too Much: If your baby snorts and snores every time he sleeps and this continues for days and weeks, then it is a matter of concern.
- Shrill or Extremely Loud Snorting and Snoring: If your baby’s snorting and snoring are painful to your ears, then it’s obvious that something is not right! Loud snoring is not normal for a little baby, so check with your paediatrician to see why it’s happening.
A stuffy nose is one of the most common causes of snoring in babies, but this is a minor issue that does not call for any treatment and gets resolved on its own quickly enough. A deviated septum too doesn’t require a surgical procedure, unless, of course, your child finds it very difficult to breathe through his nose or is prone to sinus infections too often. Similarly, when it comes to laryngomalacia, 90 per cent of cases get resolved on their own without any medical treatment.
Usually, snoring in babies is not a serious medical condition; hence there is nothing that you need to worry about. But if your baby’s snoring problem is worsening day by day, you should check with a paediatrician to see if there are any other underlying health problems he’s facing.
1. Is It Normal for a One-Year-Old to Snore Loudly?
Yes, it can be normal for a one-year-old to snore. Infant snoring is often caused by the natural anatomy of their airways. However, persistent or very loud snoring may warrant a discussion with a healthcare professional to rule out potential issues.
2. Can Snoring Impact the Quality of Sleep in Infants?
Yes, excessive or disruptive snoring in infants could potentially impact the quality of their sleep. If snoring is accompanied by other symptoms like difficulty breathing or poor weight gain, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure there are no underlying issues affecting the baby’s sleep.
3. What Modifications in Parents’ Lifestyle Help to Alleviate Their Baby’s Snoring?
Parents can make several lifestyle modifications to alleviate their baby’s snoring, including:
- Ensuring a consistent sleep routine.
- Keeping the baby’s sleep environment comfortable and conducive to quality sleep.
- Using a humidifier to maintain optimal humidity levels, especially if dry air contributes to nasal congestion.
- Monitoring the baby’s sleeping position, as adjusting it slightly may affect snoring.
- Seeking advice from a healthcare professional for persistent or concerning snoring issues.
Additionally, you can keep a close watch on your child’s sleep patterns and make notes in a diary about when the snoring peaks, how often it occurs, and how loud it is. Doing this for a few days will help you see a pattern and decide if a doctor’s visit is warranted. Also, this information will prove useful to your doctor in arriving at a diagnosis and suggesting the best course of treatment.
1. Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pediatric-sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20376196
2. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids: Overview; National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536881/
3. Zweiman. B; Snoring in children—association with asthma; The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology; https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(04)01751-8/fulltext
4. Apnea of Prematurity; Children’s National; https://www.childrensnational.org/get-care/health-library/apnea-of-prematurity
5. About Back Sleeping; Safe to Sleep; https://safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov/reduce-risk/back-sleeping
6. Stridor & Laryngomalacia: Is My Baby’s Noisy Breathing Serious?; American Academy of Pediatrics; https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/laryngomalacia-and-stridor-is-my-babys-noisy-breathing-serious.aspx