As a mother, the sight of your baby sleeping means they’re relaxed, feeling safe, and content with everything around them. I always used to get that warm feeling when I looked at my baby sleeping peacefully. A little bit of snoring just seems harmless and cute.....
Unfortunately, that sense of peace and serenity I used to get at the sound of a snoring baby turned out to be misconstrued. Snoring and mouth breathing can be sign that something isn't quite right. It could be harmless, but getting it checked out is so important to be sure.
Anyone who has ever taken a meditation class, yoga, or trained for an athletic challenge of any kind will tell you that proper breathing has incredible benefits. Proper breathing, by definition, is done through the nose.
There are a few reasons why nose-breathing is better for you than mouth-breathing. Breathing through your nose increases the amount of oxygen we get to our lungs, expels more carbon dioxide, lowers our heart rate, increases lymphatic flow, and reduces stress on the heart. It also produces nitric oxide, which helps expand blood vessels and increases blood flow. It helps all the hairs and mucous in the sinuses help to filter out impurities from the air.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, can have some downsides depending on the severity. Long-term, chronic mouth breathing in children can actually affect their facial growth, mess with their teeth. It can cause gum disease, throat infections, and a little closer to my heart, lack of quality sleep. This isn't about scaring you, just about being aware and getting things checked out if you're worried.
Out of all the conversations I’ve had with parents I find that mouth breathing or snoring ranks very low down on their list of parent concerns. So thats why I wanted to raise awareness to it here.
Facial deformities and TMJ disorder are not my area of expertise, but when it comes to sleep, I know my stuff. So allow me to expand a little on why snoring can ruin a good nights sleep.
As you probably already know, we all sleep in cycles. We go from a very light sleep into deeper sleep and then deeper still. Finally into the dreaming stage known commonly as REM sleep. During that first stage of light sleep, as well as in the REM stage, we are very easily woken up. The cat jumping on the bed, your partner rolling over, or involuntary muscle twitches can startle us awake. We are then left trying to get back to sleep.
In adults, these cycles last around 90 - 110 minutes. In babies, they’re closer to 45, so the opportunity for them to wake up occurs more frequently over the course of a night. So what causes baby to wake up in those light stages of sleep? More than anything else, noise. Barking dog, door bell..... and quite often the sound of their own snoring.
That’s not the only reason for waking up. If an airway is obstructed to the point where they temporarily stop breathing, what’s known as an obstructive apnea, the body tends to startle itself out of sleep. Its a great fail safe our body uses, but obviously causes a broken nights sleep as a result.
Now, I could rehash all the things I’ve said before in my blog posts about the benefits of consolidated sleep, as well as the detriments of sleep deprivation, but I’ll leave it to the National Sleep Organisation to expand on this topic if you wish to read more. In summary, your baby needs a lot of sleep. It's not good in a whole lot of ways if they don’t get enough sleep. So if your baby is snoring, you should get it checked out by the doctor.
The first thing you should do is grab your phone and make a simple recording of your little one breathing while they sleep. The second step is to take that recording to your paediatrician and play it for them. Just going to the doctor and telling them your baby’s snoring might not spark a lot of concern. So being able to demonstrate the severity of the issue can help the doctor decide whether it warrants a referral to a respiratory specialist or not.
Removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids is often the next logical step if their airways are significantly blocked. Don’t panic though. The process isn’t nearly as intense as it might sound and is performed regularly.
If your little one’s snoring isn’t severe enough to warrant surgery, however, you might benefit from some nasal strips, which you’ve probably seen advertised. They’re just thin strips with adhesive on the back that stick to the outside of the nose and gently pull open the nasal passageways. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it does solve the problem temporarily.
Just a final note to add here. If your baby is sick or congested, don’t jump to the conclusion that their snoring is permanent. A little nasal congestion due to illness can cause baby to snore, but it should clear up when they get better. Try using a nasal bulb to suck the sickness out of their nose and then a saline solution to clear up the passageways.
I know that, as parents, we’ve got plenty to worry about without throwing unnecessary concern into the mix. But your baby's snoring, could have some serious consequences. So it is worth just getting checked out with the doctor. Great thing is there are things that can be done to make it better.
If there are other things worrying you about your child's sleep then don't hesitate to get in touch. I offer a free evaluation of your child's sleep issues and guidance to get your child sleeping well.