My Child Snores – Is It Serious?

A good night’s sleep is just one of the many ways parents can aid in the healthy development of their children. Sometimes children snore, and that can be a source of great concern for parents.

Snoring is caused by the vibration of tissues in the nasal passages and back of the throat. Snoring is common in at least 10% of children and in most cases, there’s no reason for concern that there is an underlying sleep disorder. Often ‘normal’ snoring can sound worse due to colds, allergies, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

For 1-3% of children, snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a condition where the airway is periodically blocked during sleep, sometimes causing disrupted sleep or low oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

Children with OSA may have problems with growth and learning and may be either abnormally tired or excessively hyperactive.


To test for OSA, an overnight sleep study is conducted. During a sleep study, sensors are placed on a child’s scalp, face, and body to monitor variables such as sleep quality, airflow at the nose and mouth, heart rate, oxygen levels, and movements of the chest and abdomen.

Sleep studies are typically done only on children older than 1 year and are painless. Home sleep studies are only done for 18 years and older.


If OSA is found to be present on a sleep study, your child might be referred to an ENT surgeon to have their tonsils and adenoids removed. This is an effective treatment for the vast majority of children with obstructive sleep apnea.

When to call your doctor

It is vital to talk with your provider and ask about a potential evaluation if snoring is present with additional problems of:

  • ADD or ADHD
  • Difficulties with gaining weight
  • Witnessed apnea (snoring with pauses or gasps in breathing)
  • Being excessively sleepy
  • Restless sleeping with unusual position of the body during sleep

Ensuring a child gets enough sleep is one of the greatest ways to care for a child’s health. For more information on creating good sleep habits, talk to your Pediatrics Northwest provider.

A previous version of this article was originally published on May 13, 2014.

Categories: Sleep
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