Snoring, Mouth-Breathing, & Sleep
I used to think little snoring babies were the absolute cutest. After all, what better indicator is there that your little one is fast asleep, dreaming away than the sound of them purring in their crib?
Unfortunately, that sense of peace and serenity I felt at the sight and sound of a snoring baby turned out to be totally misplaced. Now that I’m a sleep expert, I know that snoring and mouth breathing can both be cause for concern.
Mouth Breathing in Children
If you’ve ever taken a meditation class, dabbled in yoga, or trained for a marathon, you’ll know that proper breathing has invaluable benefits…and that proper breathing, by definition, is done through the nose.
There are a few very significant reasons why nose-breathing is better for you than mouth-breathing. Breathing through your nose increases the amount of oxygen we take into 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 to expand blood vessels and increases blood flow to filter out the impurities from the air that you’re inhaling.
Mouth-breathing, on the other hand, has some pretty nasty downsides. Long-term, chronic mouth-breathing in children can actually affect their facial growth, mess with their teeth, cause gum disease, lead to throat infections, stunt growth, and – a little closer to my heart – negatively impact sleep.
Snoring & Sleep
Facial deformities and TMJ certainly aren’t my area of expertise, but when it comes to sleep, I know my stuff. So, allow me to expand upon why snoring can ruin an otherwise rejuvenating night.
As you probably already know (because I talk about it in literally every blog post) we all sleep in cycles. We go from light sleep, into deeper, and deeper stages of sleep and then into the dreaming stage known as REM sleep. During both that first stage of light sleep and in REM sleep, we can easily be woken up. The dog jumping on the bed, your partner rolling over, or an involuntary muscle twitch can jerk us out of our glorious snoozing session and we’re back at the starting line trying to fall asleep.
In adults, these cycles last around 90 minutes, but in babies, they’re closer to 45 minutes. Therefore, the opportunity for them to wake up occurs more frequently over the course of the night. (I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone reading this. You all know all too well how often babies tend to wake up throughout the night.) There are many reasons that babies wake up throughout the night, but if their airway is obstructed to the point where they temporarily stop breathing – what’s known as obstructive apnea – you can be dang sure your little one is going to startle themselves awake. (I’m sure we’re all happy for that little fail-safe, even if it does lead to nighttime wake-ups.)
Now, I could rehash everything I’ve talked about before about the benefits of consolidated sleep, as well as the detriments of sleep deprivation, but I’ll spare you the repetition. Suffice it to say, your little one needs a lot of sleep, and it can be very damaging for them in many ways if they don’t get it. So, if your baby, toddler, or older child is snoring, you 110% should take action.
So that brings up the question that everyone on Earth who has ever slept next to a snorer has asked themselves: “How do I stop someone from snoring?”
The first thing you should do is grab your phone and record a video of your little one breathing while they sleep.
The second step is to take that recording into your child’s pediatrician and play it for them. Just going to the doctor and telling them that your little one snores may not spark a whole lot of concern on their part, but being able to display the severity of the issue can help to confirm whether your child needs to be evaluated by a specialist (and spoiler alert: if they’re snoring, they do.)
If their airway is significantly blocked, removal of the tonsils and/or adenoids is often a logical next step. If your little one’s snoring isn’t severe enough to warrant surgery, they might benefit from some nasal strips that gently open up the nasal passageways. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it does solve the problem temporarily.
Just a final note: if your baby is sick or sounds congested, don’t assume that their snoring is permanent. A little nasal congestion due to illness can cause babies to snore, but the snoring should stop once their symptoms clear up and they’re feeling better. In the meantime, use a nasal bulb to suck the icky gunk out of their nose and a saline solution to help clear out their passageways.
I know that as mothers we’ve got plenty to worry about without throwing unnecessary concern into the mix, but if your little one is snoring, it can have some serious consequences. Take the necessary steps to alleviate it and a better night’s sleep is around the corner.
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!