Breathing problems in children and behavior problems

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, USA, conducted a study that showed that children with breathing problems during sleep were at higher risks for future behavioral problems, such as the development of hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. Scientists noted that it is possible to identify breathing problems during sleep in the smallest – children under 2-3 years old. MedAboutMe will tell you more about the research results .

Breathing disorder during sleep as a term

Breathing disorders during sleep in children and adults is a general term that combines various breathing difficulties and disturbances that affect a person. These include snoring, which is associated with the predominance of the oral type of breathing, and this is the most common pathology in childhood. Scientists also noted the importance of sleep apnea syndrome, which, of course, is less common in children’s practice, but it does occur. 

Scientists noted that breathing disorders during sleep reach their maximum in the period 2-6 years, but parents will be able to notice alarming symptoms and manifestations in younger babies. Statistics show that every 10 children suffer from snoring, but sleep apnea syndrome occurs in only 2-4% of children.

The main reason for these manifestations that scientists see is adenoid vegetation, bad habits, as well as some bite pathologies that make nasal breathing difficult . It is noteworthy that the predominance of breathing through the mouth is one of the causes of bite pathologies, which only worsens the situation. 

Study of children

Ronald D. Chervin , one of the study’s authors, noted that prior to the study, there was no conclusive evidence that sleep-disordered breathing preceded behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. Previous studies, while suggesting this link, were not conclusive or conclusive, as the study involved a small number of children. In this case, additional influencing factors were not taken into account, for example, low birth weight, which can distort the results of the data obtained.

The conducted study takes into account not only the accompanying and influencing factors, but also proves that the violation of breathing during sleep precedes behavioral problems and is the cause of their formation.

It should be noted that the study involved more than 11 thousand children and their parents, who need to answer the questionnaire. Parents or guardians were asked to rate the child’s sleep and breathing in different age groups. Scientists collected data on the sleep state of each child from 6-8 months of age to six years.

Parents of children 3-7 years old filled out an additional questionnaire and a questionnaire, which was widely used to assess the behavior of children. The paragraphs of this questionnaire were intended to focus the attention of parents on the following issues:

  • the ability of children to focus on something;
  • manifestation of emotional symptoms, for example, anxiety, depression;
  • the ability of children to build social relationships and establish contacts;
  • common behavioral problems: aggression, ignoring the basic rules of behavior, and more.

Scientists assessed the effect of possible predisposing factors for the development of behavioral problems in children, on the part of parents: socioeconomic status, complete or incomplete family, relationships in it, the presence of bad habits in the mother, pregnancy in the first trimester, birth weight, diseases of children and much more.

Research results

Studies have shown that children with sleep-disordered breathing, who manifested themselves most at 6-18 months of age, had a 40-50% higher risk of developing behavioral problems at the age of 7, compared to children who had normal and full breathing.  

An inverse relationship was also noted, in children with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder in 93%, various breathing disorders during sleep were noted.

But what is the mechanism behind the development of behavioral problems? Scientists speculate that difficulty breathing during sleep can affect the brains of children in different ways:

  • a decrease in the concentration of oxygen in the blood and an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the prefrontal cortex;
  • Sleep is extremely important for a child, it is not in vain that they say that in a dream, children grow, develop, and the information received during the day is also analyzed. With the constant interruption of these processes, chronic lack of sleep is formed, a decrease in performance and the ability to concentrate on something.

Behavioral problems in children are formed precisely because of the disturbance of breathing during sleep and the effect on the brain, which is why children are not able to suppress emotions and arousal, which is manifested by characteristic symptoms.

The consequences of breathing disorders

The researchers found that children with sleep-disordered breathing by 40-100% more likely to suffer from neuro -povedencheskih problems at age 7, compared with children who did not suffer from respiratory problems. The most common problems were hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder, but other problems were identified.

Despite the fact that snoring and sleep apnea are quite common in children, doctors do not conduct tests to detect them and do not focus the attention of parents on this problem. But research proves that more attention needs to be paid to this issue, and doctors should be interested in snoring, predominance of mouth breathing and sleep apnea in children of all ages.  

Scientists urge to pay attention to the problem not only to parents, but also to doctors, because these are not only the risks of subsequent behavioral, but also health problems. Recall that oral breathing significantly increases the risk of frequent infections, such children are more likely to be among the constantly ill, and also have numerous dental problems, which only increases the risk of disease.

When problems are identified and diagnosed, doctors should develop a treatment plan. As a rule, breathing disorders are reduced to the formation of adenoid vegetations, and the solution to the problem is one – radical, that is, the surgical removal of growths.

Such an operation can solve several problems at once: reduce the risks of behavioral problems, the development of occlusion pathologies, as well as frequent illnesses. Of course, there are other risks, as well as some negative consequences, but new research shows that timely removal of the adenoids will do more benefit than harm, and also reduce the risk of serious consequences.

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