As a person drifts deeper into sleep, the muscles in the roof of their mouth, tongue, and throat relax. When soft tissue structures within the throat loosen enough to partially block the airway, they vibrate and produce the noise we know as snoring. The narrower the airway becomes, the stronger the flow of air is, causing the throat’s tissues to vibrate more and the snoring to become louder.

While it’s normal for children to snore occasionally, frequent snoring can be an indicator of an underlying condition and may be disruptive to sleep. There are a number of steps parents and caregivers can take to address a child’s snoring at home, but it’s important to consult a doctor if the frequency or severity of a child’s snoring becomes concerning.

How to deal with a child’s snoring

If your child only snores every now and then, adjusting their sleeping position may help — sleeping on the side rather than the back can reduce snoring by keeping the airways open and allowing air to flow freely. Elevating the head slightly with an appropriately sized pillow may also alleviate snoring: this position encourages the sinuses to drain and can prevent the tongue from falling back and blocking the child’s airway.

Frequent (or loud) snoring doesn’t only disrupt the child’s sleep: other family members might be awoken by the snoring too, which can lead to fragmented sleep for everybody in the home. Children who snore for three or more nights in a week (known as “habitual snoring”) should be referred to a doctor for treatment.

Is it normal for a child to snore at night?

In a UK-based survey which asked parents and caregivers to record their children’s snoring habits, 59.7% of the children were reported to have had episodes of snoring in the previous 12 months. Habitual snoring was found to affect 7.9% of children.  

While many children experience occasional snoring, habitual snoring can be a symptom of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB). Sleep-disordered breathing ranges in severity, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a primary concern associated with SDB.

Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by frequently interrupted sleep caused by the repeated collapse of the upper airway, which leads to breathing being cut off momentarily. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can result in negative health consequences such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Seek advice from a medical professional if you are concerned about the frequency of your child’s snoring.

At what age is it normal to snore?

Snoring tends to worsen as people age due to loss of muscle tone, weight gain, and a variety of other factors. In one study that compared snoring patterns of student-aged participants with older subjects, 83% of students reported "never" or "rarely" snoring while only 35% of older subjects placed themselves in these categories.

Adults, children, and babies are all capable of snoring, and it’s normal for a person to experience episodes of snoring every now and then. If snoring becomes frequent or begins to interfere with sleep, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition that requires attention from a medical professional.

Why do children snore?

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are a common cause of snoring in children, and issues which affect the nasal passages (such as a deviated septum or congestion from an illness) can also put a child at higher risk for snoring. Additionally, certain medical conditions — such as asthma and allergies — can make a child more likely to snore.

Exposure to tobacco smoke is believed to be associated with habitual snoring, and other environmental factors like low air quality may also trigger or exacerbate snoring in children. Research indicates that obesity is linked with snoring, and studies have found that obese children are more likely to experience sleep-disordered breathing.

How to reduce a child’s snoring at night

When a child doesn’t get a sufficient amount of sleep, their snoring may worsen due to changes in their sleep structure as they try to make up for lost rest. Good sleep hygiene — such as going to bed at the same time every night and consistently getting enough rest — can help alleviate snoring in children.

For obese children, making dietary and lifestyle changes to safely achieve a healthier weight may reduce the frequency of snoring episodes and lower the risk of sleep-disordered breathing.  

Children who suffer from nighttime stuffiness may benefit from having a dehumidifier in their bedroom, as congestion can often lead to snoring. If your child has allergies, placing an air purifier in their bedroom can remove dust, pollen, and other allergens from the air, reducing the risk of snoring brought on by allergy symptoms.

There are several steps a doctor may take to address a child’s snoring if they feel it needs further attention. A doctor can look for signs of more severe sleep-disordered breathing and can help identify other factors (such as allergies) that could be exacerbating a child’s snoring. In cases where obstructive sleep apnea is suspected, a doctor may recommend additional testing, which can include an overnight sleep study.

If your child snores and feels tired during the day — or if they experience breathing interruptions, gasping, or choking while asleep — consult a medical professional for guidance and treatment.