BACKGROUND: Sudden breath-holding episodes during sleep in young children are potentially related to sudden infant death syndrome and other life-threatening events. Additionally, these episodes can negatively affect child’s growth and development. CASE PRESENTATION: Here, we present 3 cases of preschool children with similar paroxysmal nocturnal waking events associated with choking that had different etiologies (nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy, nocturnal gastroesophageal reflux disease, and parasomnia, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: It is important to take into consideration the fact that breath spells during sleep can occur as a rare manifestation of parasomnia due to gastroesophageal reflux or as a symptom of nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. Full video electroencephalography, polysomnography, and simultaneous gastric pH monitoring should be used for the differential diagnosis of sleep-related disorders, such as breath spells, in children.