A study that’s said to be the largest of its kind in the U.S. finds there may be a possible connection between excessive snoring in children and development of the brain that could lead to behavioral problems.
The research, conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and published in the journal Nature Communications, looked at more than 10,000 children across the county ages 9 and 10.
The study found kids who snored three or more nights a week during sleep may account for issues, such as lack of focus, hyperactivity and learning difficulties at school.
“What makes the study unique is the fact that we have data from a very representative and large population of the U.S.,” says University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Dr. Amal Isaiah, an ear, nose and throat physician who works closely with children and is the study’s lead author.
“I don’t think, at least to my best knowledge, that there is data out which suggests behavioral problems and brain changes in the same study,” Isaiah said.
The researchers found kids who constantly snored were more likely to have thinner gray matter in several regions in the frontal lobes of their brain, which are responsible for higher-reasoning skills and impulse control.
The condition is correlated with issues associated to sleep apnea, such as learning disabilities and impulsive behavior.
Isaiah said the behaviors are similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but the treatment of the snoring problems is different.
“Children with ADHD type symptoms with or without sleep problems may be treated with stimulants,” Isaiah said. “Children with sleep problems and behavioral problems may be more effectively, in some instances, be treated by surgery.”
So what should parents do and what’s the treatment?
Isaiah said surgery is an option, but not the first choice.
“It does not mean that you need to run to a physician to get your child’s tonsils and adenoids out at this moment,” Isaiah said.
Parents are advised to monitor snoring symptoms and bring your child to a doctor for an evaluation first and, in some cases, Isaiah said the snoring can resolve itself on its own and disappear as the child ages without surgery.