When Snoring is a Problem for Children (Pedcast)


Thank you for joining me today…I am your host, Dr Paul Smolen

I a general pediatrician by day and a blogger at night.

I create these short practical and hopefully informative podcasts to make information about parenting more accessible to parents. As I like to say, from the bassinette to the boardroom, from the crib to the country club, from the delivery room to the doctorate…. DocSmo is there.

Important topic today for parents with especially school age children

In order for your child to “run” well, they have to get good quality sleep

In order to get good quality sleep, they need to have an adequate airway while asleep and lying in order to have comfortable breathing.

Snoring is often a sign that a child has a poor airway at night and MAY not be breathing well in their sleep.

So lets talk about this aspect of sleep in today’s podcast and explore more on the subject of sleep in children. Before we get started, my lawyer…my wife, wants me to remind my listeners that this podcast is not intended to give parents specific information about their child but rather is intended to provide general information only, not specific medical advice for your child.


Long time listeners know I love to talk science when it relates to the topic of the day so I think it is time to take a little ride down “Science lane” so we can get some more understanding about sleep and breathing as it relates to today’s topic.

In order to have restorative sleep, our brains need to get a certain amount of slow brainwave sleep, quiet restful sleep.

Comfortable unlabored breathing is essential to getting this restorative sleep.

Comfortable breathing needs an adequate airway to provide air to our lungs and here is where children often have problems.

Small noses often clogged with mucous from colds or allergy, small throats because they are kids, and large tonsils and adenoids (tonsils that sit behind the nose) because they put so many germs in their mouths that these structures are stimulated to be big… and big they can get.  Sometimes there is an almost complete occlusion of the nose and throat.

If a child has a poor airway during sleep it is likely that they will snore, be restless most of the night, sleep in unusual hyper extended positions, get up in the morning as if they still need sleep, and maybe have behavior and learning problems at school.

They might even have sleep apnea where they stop breathing for 10-20 seconds followed by very heavy gasps when breathing restarts.

I once had a dad bring his child to the office with a video of their child doing this and he refused to leave until I made arrangements for it to be fixed!



To illustrate this point let me tell you a story.

I was in the office recently and a parent did what they often do during their child’s routine visit… I got the “Oh by the way” question.

Their toddler was in the office for a well visit but they wanted to talk about their 6 year old who was having problems in school

The 6 year olds teacher had some concerns about his emotional state.  He seemed overwhelmed, anxious, and frankly, was not performing well compared to his classmates.

Little Johnny, let’s call him, had an anxious disposition:…the parents admit that… but his teacher wanted to make sure there was nothing wrong physically with him.  They had noted that by the afternoon, he seemed overwhelmed, crying, having outbursts and tantrums.  He seemed smart but was not learning as well as he should be.

So here was my quick thought process…remember, this was a “Oh by the way question”.  Was this child reacting to stress at home, or were we beginning to see a child who has trouble with a mood problem like depression or anxiety, or was this a child with developmental delays who could not cope and tantrum to get out of situations, or was this a child who felt physically ill manifesting as fatigue and truly couldn’t cope?

Fortunately, I stumbled right into what is probably the right answer.

I asked if he slept well, and specifically did he snore?

They said he did snore and was a restless sleeper.

Now the big question:  Is he rested when he gets up in the morning or does he have a difficult time getting going in the morning?  Yes he is irritable and slow in the morning they said…DING,DING,DING…now we are getting somewhere.



This is a perfect example to highlight the importance of sleep to a child’s well being.

Turns out that Johnny’s large tonsils and adenoids were causing serious sleep problems for him.

He was tired and frazzled all the time.

He just couldn’t cope with the demands of school and melted down when he was overwhelmed by fatigue.

An alert teacher and parents knew something was wrong and they took action… good for them.

A tonsillectomy cured this child’s behavior problem at school by giving him a large enough airway in sleep to allow him to get restorative sleep.

Surgeons curing behavior problems and improving school performance…what won’t they figure out next?



So here are the take home points I want you to remember from today’s cast.

Snoring during sleep is usually not a health problem except when a child, or an adult for that matter, doesn’t get enough quality sleep to feel restored.

School age children are very prone to obstructive sleep because they have small noses and throats, large tonsils and adenoids due to so many nose and throat infections, are frequently congested, and have a higher need for sleep.

If a child is sleep deprived, the consequences are very large for them including learning problems, behavior difficulties, impulsiveness with all it’s consequences, and more frequent illnesses.

If you think your child may have trouble with sleep, talk to your pediatrician… they may be able to help.

If they can’t help, most big cities now have sleep specialists who are expert in these matters… be your child’s advocate…you will be glad you did.


Again, thank you for joining me today.

I am truly flattered by the following we are starting to get for the blog.

I had no idea I would become a media personality in my next career.

Comments on Itunes, face book or twitter are welcome.

I will post insightful comments on my blog so keep those coming.

Please spread the DocSmo word to your friends.

I try and bring you high quality, peer reviewed and referenced information in a very approachable form.

I have started posting transcripts of each pedcast for those who might prefer to read the content rather than listening… I hope you will find that useful.

This is Dr. Paul Smolen, your host, broadcasting from studio 1E in Charlotte, NC hoping your children won’t make a peep during their restorative sleep.


Until next time.