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Snoring in Toddlers

By Christina McDonald-Legg ; Updated June 13, 2017

While snoring in toddlers may be cute, it may be indicative of a serious sleep disorder. Seven to 12 percent of toddlers snore, according to Babies Today, and 1 to 3 percent of these toddlers go on to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. It is important to have your toddler see a doctor if she snores.


There are a number of reasons your toddler may snore. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common reasons. Nasal obstructions such as allergies or a deviated septum may cause snoring in toddlers, as well as a cold or upper respiratory tract infection. Factors such as being overweight or facial characteristics, including cleft palate or a receding chin, also will contribute to snoring.


Occasional snoring, loud breathing through their mouth and snorting sounds are normal. Snoring with a steady rhythm is also normal and may pass as your child goes into the next phase of sleep. Your toddler may also snore or snort if he has a cold or allergies that congest his nose or chest, which is also considered normal and will pass as soon as the condition does.

Not Normal

Excessively loud snoring, snoring three or more days a week or pauses between breath are not normal. If your toddler seems to work hard to breathe or gasps as he catches his breath, he may have sleep apnea. This is a serious disorder that should be checked out by a doctor immediately. It may contribute to making your child sleepy during the day, as well as cranky or irritable, which could lead to behavioral problems.

Sleep Apnea

Snoring loudly with pauses between breaths is a good indication that your toddler has sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common disorder among toddlers and children, occurring when there is a blockage in the airway, typically enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Sleep apnea peaks when your child is between 3 and 6 years old, when the tonsils and adenoids are at their largest in relation to the size of your child's airways.


If your toddler has a cold or a congested nose, try a vaporizer or a humidifier in their room to make breathing easier. If your toddler has allergies to pets, keep the bedroom free of pets to reduce fur in the toddler’s room. If the snoring seems to be habitual--more than three times a week--you should take your toddler to a doctor to see if she has sleep apnea. Treatment options for sleep apnea typically include removal of the tonsils or adenoids, which may be obstructing your toddler's airway.

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