Snoring can be annoying, there’s no doubt. But when your kiddos snore, it’s pretty cute.
It’s also pretty problematic when it comes to how their brain develops.
The effects of habitual snoring on the brain can also impact your child’s behavior, causing significant problems in school, with peers and with authority figures such as teachers, coaches and even you as parents.
A study published in Nature Communications found that behavioral problems in children who snore could be connected to changes in their brain’s frontal lobe structure.
The study results are critical because they support early evaluation and intervention when children snore habitually (snoring three or more nights a week).
The research, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and nine other institutes, centers and offices of the National Institutes of Health, joined earlier extensive, population-based studies showing an apparent link between snoring and behavioral problems, including inattention or hyperactivity.
Other consequences include mood swings, depression, anxiety, defiance, problems concentrating, difficulty completing schoolwork, problems focusing on tasks, problems with cognitive function, difficulty following instructions, trouble sitting still and daytime fatigue. Children with sleep-disordered breathing often experience headaches, too.
The relationship between snoring and behavior disorders is not always completely understood. Previous research studies have shown some connection between behavior issues and snoring; however, some gray area existed over whether the behavior problems seen in some children were caused by obstructive sleep apnea or other types of sleep-disordered breathing.
To help clear up the gray area, the researchers on the study analyzed a large and diverse dataset collected by the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The ABCD study was a long-term study of child health and brain development in the United States, collecting data from more than 11,000 9- and 10-year-old children.
The data was used to investigate the potential connection between snoring, brain structure and behavioral problems.
The research confirmed the results of previous studies and revealed a connection between issues regarding breathing during sleep and behavioral problems in children. The study also found that children who snored more often exhibited the worst behavior, according to a survey completed by their parents.
The study also found that snoring is connected to less brain tissue volume in multiple frontal lobe areas, which is concerning as the frontal lobe is the brain area in which cognitive functions such as problem-solving, impulse control and social interactions are regulated.
The analysis also shows that the differences in the brains of children who habitually snore not only cause behavioral issues but suggest the need for future research on how snoring, the structure of the frontal lobe and behavioral problems develop over time.
This study also mentioned that treating the effects of obstructive sleep apnea and other forms of sleep-disordered breathing can potentially reverse behavioral issues in children who snore and that screening children for habitual snoring should be a standard of care.
Causes of Snoring in Children
There are multiple reasons a child can snore. Some of these factors are temporary, but those with the potential to be long-lasting should be addressed to protect your child’s overall health, as well as their emotional and behavioral health.
In children, the most common risk factors for snoring include:
- Large or swollen tonsils and adenoids. The tonsils and adenoids are found near the back of the throat and play a role in the body’s immune system. They can become swollen because of infection or illness or just naturally develop larger in some kids than others. This is the most common cause of sleep-disordered breathing in children.
- Obesity. Researchers have found that children who are overweight are more like to snore than those who are not. Obesity can cause extra weight on the airway, raising the risk of sleep-disordered breathing.
- Congestion. Congestion, caused by colds or allergies, can cause snoring in children because extra mucus can block airflow. It can also cause inflammation and swelling of the tonsils and adenoids.
- Asthma. Asthma can negatively affect normal breathing and may even cause partial airway blockages and contribute to snoring.
- Physical characteristics. How your child’s face developed can also impact how they breathe. Some children have a deviated septum, which means the nostrils do not develop equally, causing snoring and mouth breathing. Additionally, when the upper jaw does not develop properly, the upper airway also does not correctly develop, causing sleep-disordered breathing.
- Secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke can impact breathing, increasing the risk of snoring in children.
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