Even children snore, snoring in children may be linked to behavioral problems. According to a new study, children who persistently snore during early childhood are more likely to have behavioral problems such as inattention, depression, aggression, and hyperactivity. Young children who snore loudly at least twice a week at the ages of 2 and 3 had more behavioral problems than children who didn’t snore.
The researchers didn’t find any differences in motor development between snorers and non-snorers or transient snorers, but they did find that snorers were more likely to be hyperactive, depressed or inattentive. Children who were persistent snorers were more likely to have been exposed to environmental tobacco smoke prenatally and into childhood. Snorers were significantly more likely to be black and to have a low socioeconomic status, according to the study.
Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center surveyed the mothers of 249 children of this study, asking their mothers about their youngsters’ sleeping habits. Investigators say this is the first study to look at the relationship between continual snoring and behavior problems in preschool children. According to doctors, loud, persistent snoring occurs in approximately one of every 10 children.
Dr. Dean Beebe, director of the hospital’s neuropsychology program says, “The strongest predictors of persistent snoring were lower socioeconomic status and the absence or shorter duration of breast-feeding.” This would suggest that doctors routinely screen for and track snoring, especially in children from poorer families, and refer loudly-snoring children for follow-up care. Dr. Beebe also says, “failing to screen, or taking a ‘wait and see’ approach on snoring, could make preschool behavior problems worse.” “The findings also support the encouragement and facilitation of infant breast-feeding.”
“A lot of kids snore every so often, and cartoons make snoring look cute or funny. But loud snoring that lasts for months is not normal, and anything that puts young kids at that much risk for behavioral problems is neither cute nor funny,” says Beebe. “That kind of snoring can be a sign of real breathing problems at night that are treatable.”
Beebe says, researchers didn’t study the reasons why children snore, but studies on animal models show continual snoring may affect behavior in two ways – through poor sleep quality or bad air exchange. He says, if the part of the brain that controls moods is not properly rested and does not get proper exchange of oxygen, the brain is altered, which can cause irritability. The behavior and mood of young children likely are affected in similar ways.
“Snoring can disrupt the quality of sleep, and a tired toddler has a much lower tolerance for frustration. When you add chronicity to the problem, over time, that lack of sleep sets up negative interactions within the toddler’s environment, which may change the way they respond,” Beebe explained. “This is a developing brain. The connections that are made and retained are about their experiences. A lack of sleep could fundamentally alter those experiences.”
Study authors noted even after taking into account other factors in the child’s life, that breast-feeding, especially over longer periods of time, seemed to protect toddlers against persistent snoring.
Dr. Sangeeta Chakravorty, director of the pediatric sleep evaluation center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, wasn’t surprised by the findings. “Snoring impacts sleep, and sleep loss impacts behaviors,” she explained. But, she noted that the study wasn’t able to determine whether the behavior problems were just because the children were tired, or if their snoring was significant enough to cause a chronic lack of oxygen, because the study only included information from the children’s mothers. There were no objective data, such as oxygen levels throughout the night.
Chakravorty added that snoring in this age group is actually common. She said enlargement of the adenoids was the biggest cause of snoring, followed by enlarged tonsils. Nasal allergies can also cause snoring, as can abnormalities in the facial structure or the structure of the airway. And obesity can cause snoring in children like it does in adults.
“There are treatments for snoring,” said Beebe, who cautioned that parents should be prepared for the possibility that treating the snoring may not always cure the behavior problems. “Snoring may or may not be the cause of behavior problems,” he said.
Both experts recommended bringing up any persistent snoring with your child’s pediatrician. “If you hear your child snoring more than three to four times a week in the absence of an upper respiratory infection [cold], and it lasts more than a month, seek help from the pediatrician,” Chakravorty said.
AAP Issues New Guidelines for Kids’ Snoring
A new set of practice guidelines that was released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) may help parents and pediatricians uncover things that go snore in the night.
Click here for the AAP Guidelines.