Sleep Apnea and Snoring in Children Linked to Behavioral Problems

A new study finds young children who have problems breathing while sleeping are at an increased risk for behavioral difficulties later in childhood.

Two-year-old Unique Harper was almost always in a bad mood.

"He would be so cranky and he would always want to hit his brothers," said Hope Dukes.

His aggressiveness and irritability prompted his mother to take him to a specialist.

Doctors did a sleep study and found he had severe sleep apnea.

"They said he stopped breathing 25.5 times an hour which was very shocking to me. Very shocking," said Dukes.

Unique also snored and breathed through his mouth.

Doctors call these symptoms sleep-disordered breathing, or SDB.

A new study in the journal pediatrics finds children with SDB are significantly more likely to develop behavioral problems by the time they are seven.

"Inattentiveness, aggressiveness, impulsivity," said Dr. Pakkay Ngai.

They're also likely to have emotional problems including depression and anxiety.

"If someone is not breathing correctly it will cause someone to have disruptions in their sleep It will make them more restless," said Dr. Pakkay Ngai.

An estimated 10 percent of children snore and about 4 percent have sleep apnea.

It's often because of enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Unique had his tonsils and adenoids removed in December.

Now he sleeps through the night.

His mother says he's a different child.

"He's happy, he's talkative, he runs and hugs everyone. he's just a very happy child," said Dukes.

Unique's breathing troubles did slow his development a bit but he's back on track now.

Obesity is another common cause of sleep-disordered breathing.

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