Sleep-disordered breathing in children associated with behavioral problems

The CBS Evening News reported, “You already know young children get cranky if they don’t get enough sleep, but a study” published online “in the journal Pediatrics found children who have trouble sleeping are more likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems later on.”

On ABC World News, medical editor Richard Besser, MD explained the “study followed more than 11,000 children for seven years. Those who snored breathed through their mouths or had apnea, long pauses between breaths, were up to twice as likely to develop behavioral problems by age seven.”

The New York Times “Motherlode” blog reported, “Sleep-disordered breathing — snoring, mouth breathing and apnea (abnormally long pauses in breathing during sleep)” in “relatively young children, and even in infants, often precedes behavioral problems in those children at four and seven years of age.”

Specifically, “signs of sleep-disordered breathing in children, ages six to 69 months, predicted a 60% higher risk of behavioral problems, such as hyperactivity, at age” seven, MedPage Today reports.

“The children with the worst symptoms that persisted the longest were most likely to develop hyperactivity, conduct, and social problems,” the study found.

What’s more, “even the kids whose symptoms resolved after peaking at around 18 months faced a 40% to 50% elevated risk of behavioral problems at age seven, compared with those who never had symptoms.”

WebMD points out that children with breathing problems during sleep also faced an increased risk for “anxiety and depression.”

Investigators theorized that “infancy and young childhood are key periods of brain development, and breathing problems might decrease oxygen in the brain. Plus, the authors note, breathing problems could interrupt the restorative processes of sleep and disrupt the balance of various cellular and chemical systems.”

For that reason, HealthDay reports that Heidi Connolly, MD, “division chief for pediatric sleep medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said the study adds to a growing body of research showing that snoring, mouth breathing and sleep apnea in children should be taken seriously.”

Connolly, who was not involved in the study, explained that “while snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, it can have other causes, such as nasal allergies. Other studies suggest that even snoring alone, without apnea, can cause kids to do worse developmentally.”

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