Sleep Apnea Related To ADHD Problems In Children, Study Says

An increased rate of behavioral problems in children is associated with obstructive sleep apnea, according to a new study. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that the breathing sleep disorder affects 2 percent of children in the U.S.

The study shows that obstructive sleep apnea, a common form of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), is relative to ADHD-like symptoms in children and also learning problems. Findings from the study were published in the journal SLEEP.

Researchers examined data from the Tucson Children's Assessment of Sleep Apnea Study (TuCASA) for the five-year study. The data collected in that study recorded the effects of SDB on neurobehavioral functioning in children ages 6 to 11 years.

For the new study, neurobehavioral assessments were obtained from 263 children who participated in an overnight sleep study. Researchers found that during the five-year study, sleep apnea developed in 23 children and persistent sleep apnea was found in 21 children. Although initially having sleep apnea, 41 children no longer had it by the fifth year follow-up.

Results of the study suggested the children who developed sleep apnea during the study were four to five more times more likely to have behavioral problems. Children that had persistent sleep apnea were six times more likely to have behavioral problems. Hyperactivity, attention, disruptive behaviors, communication and social competency problems were more likely to be reported by parents of children diagnosed with sleep apnea.

"There are considerable behavioral risks associated with continued SDB. We should also consider the possibility that SDB contributes to difficulties with hyperactivity, learning and behavioral and emotional dysregulation in the classroom," said Michelle Perfect, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor at the University of Arizona. 

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