Sleep Apnea in Kids Linked to Behavioral, Adaptive and Learning Problems

First Posted: Apr 01, 2013 04:36 AM EDT

Sleep apnea has made headlines in recent years. A survey according to the National Sleep Foundation states that nearly 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and it is often linked with people who are overweight.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that occurs while sleeping and occurs in 1 to 4 percent of children who are between 2-8 years old. A victim of sleep apnea will have one or more pauses in breathing or may have shallow breaths while sleeping.

Beyond this, there are certain other downsides to this sleeping disorder. A latest study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson has tied children with sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) to an increased risk of ADHD-like behavioral and learning problems and other adaptive problems.

"This study provides some helpful information for medical professionals consulting with parents about treatment options for children with SDB that, although it may remit, there are considerable behavioral risks associated with continued SDB," Michelle Perfect, PhD, the study's lead author from the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a press statement.

The current study worked on data collected from the Tucson Children's Assessment of Sleep Apnea Study (TuCASA) that was conducted on 263 children for a period of 5 years. In order to examine the occurrence and frequency of SBD, TuCASA examined children between the age group of 6-11 and also monitored its effects on their neurobehavioral functioning. The participants had completed an overnight sleep study and a neurobehavioral battery of assessments that involved both the parents and kid-reported rating scales.

The researchers noticed that 23 children had sleep apnea during the study period, while 21 children had constant sleep apnea throughout the study. They noticed that 41 kids who initially had sleep apnea, no longer had any breathing problems while sleeping.

Behavioural problems were 4-5 times more likely in kids with incident of sleep apnea and 6 times higher in kids with constant sleep apnea.

Kids with sleep apnea were more likely to have parent-reported problems in areas of hyperactivity, attention, disruptive behaviors, communication, social competency and self-care. Some parent-reported problems were 7 times more likely in kids with persistent sleep apnea who also had school grades of C or lower.

The study was reported in the journal SLEEP.

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