Sleep Apnea And Behavioral Effects In Children


You may have thought that snoring is simply a harmless behavior in humans, but you are wrong. Particularly for kids, new research has shown that more young children with sleeping disorders are likely to develop behavioral problems.

The study showed that children with sleep disorder are 40% and above more likely to experience problems in behavior at age seven. Such risks include aggressiveness and breaking rules as well as anxiety and depression with difficulty to get along with peers.

For children with sleep disorders, they are often restless in their sleep. They snore so loud and sometimes stop breathing and after few seconds recover with a gasp. Hyper activeness is an effect of sleep disorder.

For adults with the sleep disorder, their results become linked to sleeping during the day, accidents and also they end up developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic disorders.

Apnea is the medical term used for sleeping disorders which involve temporary pauses while breathing during sleep usually caused by narrow airway or it has been blocked or is floppy. The snoring is due to low oxygen level in the bloodstream which causes the brain to send out a signal to breathe whereby the sleeper wakes and gaps for air and breathe normally for which the cycle repeats itself.

Connection between Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Behavior

Kids who snore or suffer from sleep apnea tend to sleep during the day. It makes sense in that they didn’t get enough sleep hence the body requires the rest. But how does apnea affect emotional and behavioral problems?

The brain grows a lot during infancy as well as it develops. The problems with nighttime breathing during those formative years decrease oxygen supply in the brain is a possibility. The pathways development that controls behavior and mood becomes interfered with that possibility.

You should keep in mind that poor or interrupted sleep may cause problems in a developing brain. Another consequence of sleep apnea is cardiovascular issues. Children with OSA may become induced with elevations of pressures of the pulmonary artery by intermittent hypoxia that occurs during sleep.

Studies have shown that significant decrease in quality of life in many children are caused by sleep apnea particularly when obesity is also involved. Sleep disturbance associated with apnea increases fatigue thus leading to depressed moods, a concentration that is impaired and low interest in daily activities. All these effects cause interference in the child’s social life.

Apnea in infants together with obesity causes an increase in the risk for metabolic disturbances. The children also tend to be in danger of developing liver steatosis which is non-alcoholic (aka. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver).
There is also the risk of physical growth impairment in children with sleep apnea. Only 5% or less of children with apnea showing symptoms of failure to thrive, interestingly, obese children with apnea will display weight gain accelerations after apnea treatment.

To top it all, children suffering from obstructive sleep apnea have a higher risk of having parent documented issues in learning. They are claimed to earn grades of C and below.

As you have seen OSA is not just a harmless behavior and thus needs to be treated or managed. In the case where it becomes ignored, kids tend to portray parent documented issues which include attention, disruptive behaviors, hyperactivity, social competence, communication, and self-care. Once the symptoms become observed, you should try to contact a pediatric specialist in sleep disorders.

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