A study published in the US journal Pediatrics has confirmed the link between children who snore or have other sleep-related issues and problem behaviour such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In a study of 11,000 children in the UK, the researchers found that about one in ten children under the age of seven snore regularly and up to 4 percent suffer from sleep apnoea. These children were from four to ten times more likely to develop neurobehavioural problems such as hyperactivity and AHDH.
Dr Karen Bonuck, from the University of New York, told the BBC news that snoring and sleep apnoea can harm the developing brain by affecting the oxygen supply to the brain, interrupting the chemical balance in the brain or by reducing quality of sleep which then disturbs the restorative processes that usually occur during sleep.
The conclusions were supported by the British Snoring and Sleep Apnoea Society, who stated that lack of sleep in young children are not often thought of as a cause for behavioural problems. Spokesperson Marianne Davey said in the BBC report , "Often parents won't make the connection and mention them to the GP, so this label of ADHD is given to the child, and sometimes they are even given drugs. This is wrong, as if the sleep problem is addressed, the behaviour will improve almost immediately".
Millions of children in the USA alone are taking medication for AHDH. The most common medication prescribed are stimulants which have side effects such as decreased appetite, anxiety and irritability. Ironically, another side effect is sleep problems.
According to the SleepFoundation, the most common physical cause of sleep apnoea and snoring in young children is large tonsils, which, until the age of seven, are large in comparison to the throat. Other causes include obesity, allergies and asthma.
The lack of quality sleep has also been related to other disorders such as obesity and memory loss.