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Behavioral problems & infant sleep disorders: a correlationby Elizabeth J Carlyle 3/7/2012 12:00:00 AMShare

Infants with sleep disorders are more likely to  have behavioral disorders by the time they are 7, according to a study, "Sleep-Disordered Breathing in a Population-Based Cohort: Behavioral Outcomes at 4 and 7 Years," released Monday. The study cites research that suggests infants with disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea are more likely to have subsequent behavioral problems, including hyperactivity and inattention, emotional problems (anxiety and depression), conduct problems (rule-breaking and aggressiveness) and problems with peer relationships.

Researchers, Karen Bonuck Ph.D., at left, and Katherine Freeman, Dr.P.H. of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, New York, assessed almost 11,000 children for sleep-disordered breathing by examining data reported by parents in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Childrena long-term community health study at the University of Bristol, England, on their children’s snoring, mouth breathing, and witnessed apnea at 6, 18, 30, 42, 57, and 69 months; parents also completed the strengths and difficulties questionnaire (a behavioral screening tool) when their children reached the ages 4 and 7 years. The study, published online on March 5 in Pediatrics, was reported on by Jenifer Goodwin of Health Day News: with sleep-disordered symptoms [were split] into four groups: those whose symptoms were the worst at 6 months of age and then abated; 18 months, and then abated; those whose symptoms didn't start until they were about 3.5 years old and then persisted; and those whose symptoms peaked at 2.5 years of age and persisted.

Nearly all four groups had an increased risk of various problems, including emotional, conduct and peer issues.

For example, at age 7, kids with "worst" sleep-breathing problems were 85% more likely to hyperactive, about 60 % more likely to have emotional or conduct problems and nearly 40% more likely to have peer difficulties. Children whose symptoms peaked early -- at 6 months or 18 months -- were 40% to 50% more likely to have behavioral problems at age 7, compared with [children who breathed normally].

Written for California's Children by Elizabeth J Carlyle