I’ve written before about the adorable (if odd) noises my daughter makes in her sleep. Sometimes she snorts and grunts like an old man with smoker’s lung, though it seems to have gotten better as she’s gotten older. The other night she fell asleep on me – a real rarity now that she’s six months old – and I got to witness those noises again. She snorted rhythmically against my chest, and I called my husband over, gesturing for him to listen.
“Oh! She’s snoring,” he said. “So cute!”
Turns out that my daughter’s snoring was potentially scary cute. Long-term snoring in children and babies can signal serious problems, like obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Sleep apnea occurs when your airway becomes too narrow for enough air to pass through, which leads to an actual pause in breathing that ranges from a few seconds to a minute. Your brain responds by waking you up with a snort or gasp to jumpstart the breathing process.
One of the most significant outcomes of sleep apnea in children is poor sleep quality. If you have a baby or young child, you already know that when your little one is on a nap or sleep strike, they tend to be in a terrible, cranky mood. Because sleep apnea causes a person to wake up frequently though the night, children with sleep apnea can become even more sleep deprived – and if your baby sleeps through the night, you might not even know that she is actually getting very low-quality sleep.
Snoring isn’t the only risk factor for sleep apnea, and snoring and excessive crankiness by themselves don’t necessarily mean a child does have sleep apnea. Allergies and other local issues can also lead to snoring in children and adults. I have a friend whose child turned out to be allergic to their cat – once they said goodbye to their feline friend, their child immediately started sleeping better!
The most important thing to know is that snoring isn’t necessarily normal in babies and children. Many parents are like my husband and me, thinking baby snoring is just another adorable part of babyhood, but the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you discuss excessive snoring or strange breathing patterns with your child’s doctor.
It turns out that my daughter’s snoring was caused by a cold – her first cold, which meant that none of us really slept for a few nights. I asked our pediatrician about it, and she said that occasional snoring isn’t anything to be worried about.
Sometimes I miss the little gremlin noises my daughter used to make, but the older she gets the better she sleeps – and now that I’ve checked out her snoring noises, so do I.