If your child has trouble sleeping, or wakes up during the night it could be that you have a mouth breather on your hands. As a baby sleep coach, I see how common mouth breathing is in young children and how this could be the reason your child is not sleeping through the night, so read on to see Mouth Breathing could be affecting your child or baby’s sleep.

mouth breathing baby sleeping

Why might my child breathe through their nose?

For the first few months of their lives, newborn babies breathe pretty much exclusively through their nose unless there’s a reason they can’t such as having a blockage in their nasal passage, usually because your little one has a cold.  In a bid to keep taking in oxygen, they will use their mouth to breathe because their nose is not up to the job.  A more long-term reason for nasal congestion could be allergies that hinder a child’s airway and forces them to use their mouth to breathe.  Because symptoms from allergies are over a longer period of time, this is more likely to encourage new (and bad) habits of resorting to breathing through the mouth even after the airway is cleared.

asian girl sleeping in the bed

Why is it a problem if my child breathes through their mouth?

When it comes to mouth breathing, there are several factors that make it something to avoid.  Both doctors and dentists suggest many side effects of mouth breathing that can cause your child discomfort and even lead to more long-term problems developing.  In young children, breathing solely through the mouth can cause dry mouth and contribute to crooked teeth.  It can lead to physical abnormalities if left to continue over a longer period of time and it can also cause dental problems as well contributing to a disrupted sleeping pattern. 

baby sleeping on the side in their cot

Are there any benefits to breathing through your nose?

Breathing through the nose is a more efficient way of using oxygen, which in turn leads to producing Nitric oxide which aids your immune system in tackling infections.  The mucus and tiny hairs in your nose also help to filter out unwanted small particles such as germs, dust or pollen and stop them from entering your lungs.  Breathing in a more efficient breath full of oxygen also helps improve brain functions and blood flow around our bodies. It helps us breathe into our lungs, air that is full of moisture as well as helping to warm the air before it gets there.  Plus it is usually quieter for the parents listening on the baby monitor!

child sleeping with mouth open mouth breathing or snoring

How do I know if my child is a mouth breather?

Young children may not be able to tell you that they have symptoms like an adult would, as they may not be able to explain what is happening to them.  There are, however, some symptoms you can look for in children which include: slower than normal growth; irritability or crying episodes during the night; dry mouth or lips; trouble concentrating for a length of time and being sleepy throughout the day.

Why is mouth breathing causing my child to have a restless night?

Mouth breathing, rather than nose breathing, can lead to your child experiencing interrupted or reduced breathing. This means their body will react to that by restarting their breathing, potentially with a snort or gasp that will in turn wake your child up.  Less oxygen to the brain also means their brains won’t get enough rest so will be more tired throughout the day.  It also means they may want to nap or go to bed early which again means good sleeping patterns are disrupted. Because of some of these factors, children have in the past been wrongly diagnosed with ADHD (research shows) due to their sharing of symptoms such as restlessness or a lack of concentration when in fact it is a much more simple case of sleep deprivation. 

toddler sleeping with mouth open mouth breathing

How can I help my child breathe through their nose?

If your child is breathing through their mouth because of an obvious problem such as an illness blocking their nose, then you can treat that in the same ways you would normally, such as by using a nasal spray or appropriate medication to ease the congestion.  If the problem is to do with allergies, then things to keep the air clear like a dehumidifier will help alleviate a blocked nose.  

If your child is no longer ill and is still breathing through their mouth, then it might be advisable to get them checked out by your GP just to check if they have enlarged tonsils or adenoids (which are patches of tissue in the throat).
You can actively encourage children who are able to understand to do breathing exercises so they can become more aware of their nose breathing.  This can help instil good breathing habits that will eventually become natural to them so that they can hopefully continue this through the night. 
Lastly creating a calm and relaxing environment free of stress and maybe adding in some yoga and deep breathing into the calming down bedtime routine to also help to reinforce this. 

Cute snorts and adorable sleeping babies aside, nothing is more important than our baby’s health and by treating the little sniffles as soon as possible, it can be so beneficial to their health now and in the future as well as making sure that your child (as well as the parents) get a much coveted good night’s sleep.

If your child is waking up too early in the morning to start their day, there may be other factors at work! Take a look at our Early Rising Sleep Guide to help your little one sleep until a reasonable wake-up time.




Have you downloaded your freebie yet? Top 10 Baby Sleep Coach Tips To Help Your Baby Sleep Better Guide! If not, then make sure to click here.

For more advice on how to help your baby sleep and find a baby sleep solution that works for you and your family, you can check out our
 1 : 1 consultation services or our new baby sleep guides which come with free access to my Sleepy Village Facebook community for easy access to get your questions answered.

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