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Loud snoring in toddlers linked to behavioral problems

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 14 2012 8:19 a.m. MDT

Children who snore loudly and persistently may be more likely to have behavior problems.

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Children who snore loudly and persistently may be more likely to have behavior problems such as hyperactivity, inattention and symptoms of depression, a new study conducted from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found.

The study indicated that breastfeeding was one strong factor that might contribute to or protect against snoring.

Other factors that made persistent snoring more likely included low socioeconomic status, race and exposure to environmental smoke, study author Dean Beebe, director of the neuropsychology program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, told U.S. News.

"Snoring is cute in comics or cartoons, but in reality it's not normal for kids to snore for weeks or months on end," Beebe said. "Snoring can disrupt the quality of sleep, and a tired toddler has a much lower tolerance for frustration. When you add chronicity to the problem, over time, that lack of sleep sets up negative interactions within the toddler's environment, which may change the way they respond."

The authors of the study looked at 249 pairs of mothers and children, at 2 or 3 years of age, asking parents how frequently their child snored loudly, ABC News reported. Children who snored less than once per week were designated as "non-snorers," children ages 2 or age 3 who snored more than two times per week were "transient snorers," and children who snored more than two times per week both at age 2 and age 3 were labeled "persistent snorers."

The study found that 35 percent of persistent snorers were more at risk for depression, attention problems and hyperactivity than the transient snorers and non-snorers.

The study, though small, is not the first of its kind. It comes at the tail end of another study published in the journal Pediatrics earlier this year, which followed more than 13,000 children from infancy to age 7, MSNBC reported.

What are some possible reasons snoring can lead to behavior problems? "The brain does a lot of growing and developing during infancy and childhood. It is possible that nighttime breathing problems during these formative years decrease the supply of oxygen to the brain," P.J. Skerrett, senior editor at Harvard Health, told the Huffington Post.

"That could interfere with the development of pathways that control behavior and mood," he said. "It is also possible that breathing problems disturb sleep, and it’s the interrupted or poor sleep by itself that may cause trouble in the developing brain."

"If you hear your child snoring more than three to four times a week in the absence of an upper respiratory infection (cold), and it lasts more than a month, seek help from the pediatrician," Dr. Sangeeta Chakravorty, director of the pediatric sleep evaluation center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, told U.S. News.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rachel.lowry@gmail.com or visit www.rachellowry.blogspot.com.

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