Snoring can signal serious medical problems such as sleep apnea, in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It’s typically associated with adults, but a new study finds kids who snore a lot are also at risk of behavioral and health issues.
Using data from more than 11,000 9- and 10-year-old children, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found behavioral problems in children who snore may be tied to changes in their brain’s frontal lobe.
Previous studies have linked snoring and inattention or hyperactivity, and other research has connected sleep apnea to changes in the brain. This study explored whether these changes are related to behavior issues in some children with obstructive sleep-disordered breathing, a group of snoring-related conditions.
According to assessments by their parents, children who snored several times a week had worse behavior. After analyzing brain MRI scans of those children, the researchers found they had thinner gray matter in regions of their frontal lobe. This is the area of the brain involved in functions such as problem solving, impulse control and social interactions.
The authors stressed that more research is needed to establish any links between brain changes and behavioral issues.
Sleep problems can be treated, and the team suggests children routinely be screened for snoring. Those who snore several times a week may then be referred for treatment of conditions that contribute to sleep problems or possible removal of their adenoids and tonsils.
And finding a way to head off bad behavior or health problems for their children will no doubt help parents sleep better at night themselves.