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Kids with sleep apnea at higher risk of behavioral and learning problems

Washington: Children, who are suffering from sleep apnea, may have increased rates of ADHD -like behavioral problems as well as other adaptive and learning problems.

Michelle Perfect, PhD, the study`s lead author and assistant professor in the school psychology program in the department of disability and psychoeducational studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said that school personnel should also consider the possibility that sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) contributes to difficulties with hyperactivity, learning and behavioral and emotional dysregulation in the classroom.

The five-year study utilized data from a longitudinal cohort, the Tucson Children`s Assessment of Sleep Apnea Study (TuCASA).

The TuCASA study examined Hispanic and Caucasian kids between 6 and 11 years of age to determine the prevalence and incidence of SDB and its effects on neurobehavioral functioning.

The study involved 263 children who completed an overnight sleep study and a neurobehavioral battery of assessments that included parent and youth reported rating scales.

Results showed that 23 children had incident sleep apnea that developed during the study period, and 21 children had persistent sleep apnea throughout the entire study.

Another 41 children, who initially had sleep apnea, no longer were suffering from breathing problems during sleep at the five-year follow-up.

The odds of having behavioral problems were four to five times higher in children with incident sleep apnea and six times higher in kids, who had persistent sleep apnea.

Compared to children, who never had SDB, kids with sleep apnea were more likely to have parent-reported problems in the areas of hyperactivity, attention, disruptive behaviors, communication, social competency and self-care.

Kids with persistent sleep apnea also were seven times likelier to have parent-reported learning problems and three times more likely to have school grades of C or lower.

The study has been published in the journal SLEEP.