Behavioral Problems Caused by Sleep-Disordered Breathing

It’s high time that from the first year of the child’s life, parents and pediatricians should be paying greater attention to sleep disordered breathing in their children. Children are likely to develop behavioral problems for instance aggressiveness, hyperactivity along with some emotional symptoms and difficulty with peer relationships. Breathing problems may include mouth breathing, snoring and apnea. Your child can bear the serious consequences which can be social-emotional and behavioral due to such breathing problems. Breathing difficulties that occur during sleep are generally called as sleep-disordered breathing (SDB).

Apnea and snoring are the pioneers of SDB. Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by a reduction or pause of breathing (airflow) during sleep. It’s a period of time during which breathing is significantly reduced or stops. An apnea occurs when breathing in a person gets halted for 10 seconds or more. Thus, if a person stops breathing totally or takes less than 25% of a normal breath for a period of 10 seconds or more, this is an apnea. It leads to reduction in the transfer of oxygen into the blood. When an apnea occurs, sleep usually is disrupted due to poor oxygen levels in the blood and inadequate breathing. This means that sometimes the person wakes up completely, but sometimes this can mean the person moves into a shallow level of sleep from a deep level of sleep.

Also, while we are asleep, turbulent airflow can cause the tissues of the nose and throat to vibrate and give rise to snoring. Snoring is a sound resulting from turbulent airflow that causes tissues to vibrate during sleep. People with the nasal airway obstruction must breathe through their mouths and are therefore sometimes called “mouth breathers.” Many mouth breathers snore, because the flow of air through the mouth causes greater vibration of tissues. When we breathe through our mouth the air entering our lungs will be colder, drier and dirtier and this can be uncomfortable.

SDB results in behavioral difficulties by targeting the brain in various ways such as decreasing oxygen levels and increasing carbon dioxide levels in the prefrontal cortex, interrupting the restorative processes of sleep, and disrupting the balance of various cellular and chemical systems. Behavioral problems resulting from these adverse effects on the brain include the ability to suppress behavior, the ability to self-regulate emotion and arousal and impairments in executive functioning which means being able to plan ahead, pay attention and organize.

Behavioral Problems Caused by Sleep-Disordered Breathing
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