Sleep apnea linked to behavioral problems

TUCSON, March 31 (UPI) -- Children with obstructive sleep apnea -- sleep-disordered breathing -- may have higher rates of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Michelle Perfect, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, examined data from a longitudinal cohort, the Tucson Children's Assessment of Sleep Apnea Study. The longitudinal study prospectively examined Hispanic and Caucasian children age 6-11 to determine the prevalence and incidence of sleep-disordered breathing and its effects on neurobehavioral functioning.


The study involved 263 children who completed an overnight sleep study and a neurobehavioral battery of assessments that included parent and youth reported rating scales.

The study showed 23 children had incident sleep apnea that developed during the study period, and 21 children had persistent sleep apnea throughout the entire study. Another 41 children who initially had sleep apnea no longer had breathing problems during sleep at the five-year follow-up.

Compared to youth who never had sleep-disordered breathing, children with sleep apnea were more likely to have parent-reported problems in the areas of hyperactivity, attention, disruptive behaviors, communication, social competency and self-care.

Children with persistent sleep apnea also were seven times more likely to have parent-reported learning problems and three times more likely to have school grades of C or lower.


"School personnel should also consider the possibility that sleep disordered breathing contributes to difficulties with hyperactivity, learning and behavioral and emotional dysregulation in the classroom," Perfect said.

The five-year study is scheduled to be published in the April issue of the journal Sleep.

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