What are the Causes of Snoring in Toddlers?

Erin J. Hill

The causes of snoring in toddlers are much the same as those in adults. Narrow nasal passages, blocked passages due to cold or allergies, and improper sleeping position are all possibilities. In some cases, snoring may be due to excess weight, which may cause the airways to become restricted. Sleep apnea may also be associated with snoring in toddlers, although this is less likely.

Colds, allergies and excess weight can cause toddlers to snore.
Colds, allergies and excess weight can cause toddlers to snore.

One of the most common causes of snoring in toddlers is narrow nasal passages. Young children naturally have smaller passages than adults and infants do not develop the ability to breathe through their mouths until they are older. This means that snoring may develop until the passages widen as the child grows. Sometimes, due to the shape of the nose, passages may remain extremely narrow throughout life. This rarely causes serious problems, but if breathing during sleep is very difficult, surgery may be able to correct this.

Some types of ear plugs -- especially those effective at blocking sounds as loud as 32 decibels -- will reduce the noise of snoring.
Some types of ear plugs -- especially those effective at blocking sounds as loud as 32 decibels -- will reduce the noise of snoring.

Clogged airway passages may also cause snoring in toddlers. This can be caused by the common cold virus or allergies, and is typically a temporary condition. Until the virus or allergy symptoms subside, saline drops or decongestant medications may help to make breathing easier. Vapor rub or a humidifier may also be beneficial if stuffiness is caused by dry nasal passages.

Sleep apnea may be a cause of snoring in toddlers, though it is rare for that age group.
Sleep apnea may be a cause of snoring in toddlers, though it is rare for that age group.

Sometimes certain sleeping positions may cause snoring in toddlers. Sleeping flat on the back is one possible position which may cause breathing passages to collapse, thus making breathing more difficult. This is especially true for children who are overweight, as excess body fat is another risk factor for snoring. Extra weight causes additional pressure on the breathing passages, thus making collapses more likely to occur.

Sleeping positions may cause snoring in toddlers.
Sleeping positions may cause snoring in toddlers.

Sleeping in a semi-upright position may help to alleviate snoring in toddlers. Children who are overweight should be encouraged to lose it through a healthy diet and exercise. If snoring persists, parents should seek the advice of a doctor for further evaluation.

Surgery may be required to treat nasal issues that are causing snoring in toddlers.
Surgery may be required to treat nasal issues that are causing snoring in toddlers.

Sleep apnea may be related to snoring in toddlers, although this is slightly more common in young babies and adults. Infants often grow out of this condition before toddler age, but this is not always the case. Apnea is the cessation of breathing for short periods during sleep, and is often caused by the same underlying causes of snoring. If nighttime snoring is chronic and is not alleviated by using standard interventions, a doctor or sleep specialist should be consulted.

Narrow nasal passages may cause snoring in toddlers.
Narrow nasal passages may cause snoring in toddlers.

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