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Snoring and Problem Behaviors in Children

According to a new study in Pediatrics, preschoolers with loud and persistent snoring are more likely to have depression, hyperactivity and inattention.  This is the first study of its kind for this age group, and the results make sense.  When children are sleep deprived–because of a late bedtime, early rising or nightwakings–side effects can be a change in behavior and more difficulty learning.  Snoring is disruptive to sleep–since it causes oxygen to be restricted and the sleeper to have a harder time breathing…some people even wake themselves up with their own snoring–so it can certainly cause a person to become sleep deprived….and exhibit those behaviors.

snoring, child sleep, toddlers

Snoring in young children linked to behavior problems
Photo Credit: Tono Balaguer

In this study, researchers set out to find predictors for snoring, looking at the race and gender of the child, socioeconomic status of parent, child’s birthweight, prenatal and childhood tobacco exposure, if and how long child was breastfed, and child’s body mass.  249 mother-child pairs participated in this study, and the mothers provided information on their children’s sleep and daytime behavior.

Researchers found that when 2 and 3 year old children snored at least twice a week, they exhibited more behavior problems than those children who did not persistently snore or who were found to snore only at either age 2 or age 3.

In this study, researchers found a stronger connection between children from lower socio-economic families or those who were not breastfed (or only breastfed for a short amount of time) and persistent and loud snoring.  Researchers speculated that lower socioeconomic status can mean poorer air quality, nutrition, sleeping environment, etc. which are risk factors.  Breastfeeding is harder for infants than taking a bottle, and the act of breastfeeding may help strengthen the airways.  It could also be attributed to the extra immunity breastmilk offers.

The researchers suggested that pediatricians screen children with these risk factors and routinely monitor their sleep.

I have worked with more than a few families this summer whose children snored and/or had problem behaviors.  Since I’m a behavioral sleep expert, and not a medical professional, I always suggest persistent snoring concerns be directed to their pediatrician.

But the problem behaviors I can fix if they are associated with sleep–or lack of.  In all of the cases where the child exhibited hyperactive behavior, the children had late bedtimes, were waking up at least once during the night, and then waking too early in the morning!  Once we got these kids on a better schedule and sleeping through the night, and made a few changes to their daytime schedule, the problem behaviors disappeared.  One mom even shared that her son’s preschool called to ask if she had put him on a medication!  Sleep–consolidated and rejuvenating sleep–is truly an amazing thing…


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