Sleep-Disordered Breathing in a Population- Based Cohort: Behavioral Outcomes at 4 and 7 Years
In the largest and most comprehensive study published to date more than 11,000 children followed for over 6 years, found that young children with sleep-disordered breathing (snoring, mouth breathing and sleep apnea) are prone to developing behavioural difficulties such as hyperactivity and aggressiveness, as well as emotional symptoms and difficulty with peer relationships (according to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University).
This new study analysed the combined effects of snoring, apnea and mouth-breathing patterns on the behaviour of children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a project based in the UK.
This is the strongest evidence to date that snoring, mouth breathing and apnea (abnormally long pauses in breathing during sleep) can have serious behavioural and social-emotional consequences for children.
Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a general term for breathing difficulties that occur during sleep. It’s hallmarks are snoring (which is usually accompanied by mouth breathing) and sleep apnea. SDB reportedly peaks from 2-6 years of age, but also occur in younger children.
They found that children with SDB were from 4—100% more likely to develop neurobehavioural problems by age 7, compared with children without breathing problems.
Researchers believe that SDB could cause behavioural problems by affecting the brain in several ways: decreasing oxygen levels and increasing carbon dioxide levels in the prefrontal cortex; interrupting the restorative process of sleep; and disrupting the balance of various cellular and chemical processes. Behavioural problems resulting from these adverse effects on the brain include impairments in executive functioning (ie being able to pay attention, plan ahead, and organise), the ability to suppress behaviour and the ability to self-regulate emotion and arousal.