Snoring and Sleep Apnea: The Hidden Dangers for Children

The majority of parents know that a sleepy baby is a cranky baby; however, new studies have revealed just how crucial sleep is to proper brain development in infants and toddlers. ABC’s Diane Sawyer recently investigated the connection between snoring and behavioral problems in children. The video  includes new data from a study in the journal Pediatrics describing the dangers of sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep-disordered breathing, such as snoring, mouth breathing, and sleep apnea, are extremely dangerous for children.  Research has shown that the first three years of a child’s life are the most critical for brain development. During this time, a child’s brain is more active and open to learning than at any other age. This “plasticity”, as scientists call it, allows for normal brain development in infants and toddlers.  However, this period also increases an infant’s vulnerability to developmental problems when sleep is disrupted.

According to new research[1], sleep-disordered breathing in infants and children is linked to an increase in behavioral problems later in childhood. The study assessed the sleeping habits of over 11,000 children from birth to 7 years of age. During this time, parents monitored their children and reported instances of sleep-disordered breathing. At 4 and 7, parents evaluated behavioral patterns with a questionnaire focusing on 5 key factors:

  • Inattention and hyperactivity,
  • Emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression,
  • Peer problems,
  • Conduct problems including aggression and rule breaking,
  • Social cooperation with sharing, helpfulness, etc.

Researchers found infants and toddlers who experienced recurrent instances of sleep-disordered breathing were 40% more likely to have behavioral problems at 4 and 60% more likely to have behavioral problems at age 7, with hyperactivity being the area most affected. Those who severely suffered from sleep-disordered breathing were associated with having the most behavioral problems.

While this news is daunting, it also provides hope to families who are concerned about their children’s sleeping habits. This new understanding means that proactive parents can start taking the appropriate steps to recognize, diagnose, and prevent the outcomes of sleep-disordered breathing.

Luckily, treatments are available. If you think your child may be suffering from sleep-disordered breathing, FusionSleep® is here to help. FusionSleep®, Atlanta’s only comprehensive sleep medicine program, specializes in treating all types of sleep disorders for patients of all ages. Nationally accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, FusionSleep’s Pediatric Sleep Medicine experts can ensure your children get the sleep their developing brains need.  Call us today to book an appointment.

[1] Bonuck, K., Freeman, K., Chervin, R. D., & Xu, L. (2012). Sleep-disordered breathing in a population-based cohort: Behavioral outcomes at 4 and 7 years. Pediatrics129(4), doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1402