If there’s one thing that most parents would bond over, it’s the trouble they’ve had with their toddlers’ sleep patterns. And, if your child has a few sleep issues, it’s worth knowing that most toddlers outgrow any sleep problems they have.
However, if you find that your child has been showing symptoms of certain sleep disorders without any signs of improvement, there might be certain implications that you should be aware of. A recent study, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has linked certain sleep problems in children with special education needs. Here are 3 of these sleep-related problems that affect your child’s brain development, as per the results of the study.
1. Mouth Breathing
Proper breathing technique involves breathing through the nose, silent, and smooth. Mouth breathing, on the other hand, is noisy and visible. It’s accompanied by
- Frequent night walking
- Dry mouth
- Cracked, dry lips
- Bad breath
In children, mouth breathing is believed to cause problems with memory and learning. Additionally, it is believed to hamper their ability to identify emotions such as fear and surprise. Mouth breathing also negatively affects sleep which, in turn, hinders academic performance.1
In addition to this, they might develop long, narrow faces, narrow mouths, high palatal vaults, dental malocclusion, gummy smiles, and many other unattractive facial features. So, if you do notice that your child breathes through his mouth, consider talking to a specialist who can help you train him to breathe through the nose.3
Although often associated with only adults, a lot of children struggle with snoring at night. And, studies state that this sleep problem could result in children being hyperactive, overly aggressive, anxious, or depressed.
However, these behavioral problems aren’t the only things that parents need to worry about, in relation to snoring. Researchers believe that snoring for the first 5 years of their life causes children to develop learning problems when they’re 8.
One reason for this could be the fact that snoring decreases the supply of oxygen to the brain, hence hindering the development of pathways in the brain that are responsible for memory, behavior, and mood. Additionally, snoring disrupts sleep which, like mouth breathing, leads to problems in cognition.
Often, snoring is the result of allergies, viral infections, obesity, or enlarged tonsils and often goes away when they’re treated. But, if you do notice your toddler snoring every night for no particular reason, don’t ignore it. Instead, reach out to a sleep specialist who can guide you as to what to do next.4 5
3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is closely related to snoring and mouth breathing. It occurs when a child briefly stops breathing while sleeping and is caused due to a blockage of the upper airway (passages through the nose and mouth to the windpipe and lungs).
This pause in breathing can occur several times during the night, often causing the child to wake up gasping for air. Researchers of the study in question noted that children with sleep apnea inevitably developed cognitive, behavioral, and language-related problems in the future.
As with the other two disorders, obesity, allergies, and enlarged tonsils can be behind sleep apnea. Besides, getting these complications treated, you must ensure that your child is away from any secondhand smoke, indoor pollutants, and allergens. Additionally, you could get a sleep study done for an accurate diagnosis.6 7
In children who have all of the three problems, the risk of needing special education increases by approximately 80%. Researchers of this study stress on the need for more vigilance on the part of both the parent and doctors.
So, if you do notice any of the above sleep problems in your child, do consult a professional at the earliest. Taking early action will help you prevent your child from having problems with learning and behavior later on.
|↑1||Zelano, Christina, Heidi Jiang, Guangyu Zhou, Nikita Arora, Stephan Schuele, Joshua Rosenow, and Jay A. Gottfried. “Nasal respiration entrains human limbic oscillations and modulates cognitive function.” Journal of Neuroscience 36, no. 49 (2016): 12448-12467.|
|↑2||Uema, Sandra Fumi Hamasaki, Shirley Shizue Nagata Pignatari, Reginaldo Raimundo Fujita, Gustavo Antônio Moreira, Márcia Pradella-Hallinan, and Luc Weckx. “Assessment of cognitive learning function in children with obstructive sleep breathing disorders.” Brazilian journal of otorhinolaryngology 73, no. 3 (2007): 315-320.|
|↑3||Jefferson, Yosh. “Mouth breathing: adverse effects on facial growth, health, academics, and behavior.” Gen Dent 58, no. 1 (2010): 18-25.|
|↑4||Snoring in kids linked to behavioral problems.
|↑5||When Snoring Leads to Special Education: A Wake-Up Call for Parents and Doctors. Albert Einstein College of Medicine.|
|↑6||Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children.
|↑7||Bonuck, Karen, Trupti Rao, and Linzhi Xu. “Pediatric sleep disorders and special educational need at 8 years: a population-based cohort study.” Pediatrics 130, no. 4 (2012): 634-642.|