Children’s Behavioral Problems May Be the Result of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, not attention deficit disorder, may be the real reason for thousands of kids’ behavioral problems. Obstructive sleep apnea due to enlarged tonsils can cause repeated night-time arrestation of breathing resulting in sleep deprivation, according to ear, nose and throat physicians.

“If kids aren’t sleeping at night it can affect their school work and mental development,” says Stephen Landers, M.D., ear, nose and throat physician on the medical staff at Our Children’s House at Baylor. And kids so affected are sometimes misdiagnosed with learning disabilities. “If children are allowed to sleep properly a lot of these behavioral issues are improved,” adds Dr. Landers.

Parents needing top know whether their children’s ADD or ADHO is actually the result of sleep apnea are encouraged to watch their child sleeping at night. If they snore loudly or make gasping or snorting noises, these could be signs of sleep apnea and the family phyisician should be advised immediately.

In adults, sleep apnea is often caused by excess weight, but in 90 percent of pediatric cases, it is caused by enlarged tonsils. Fortunately, a tonsillectomy can usually treat obstructive sleep apnea in children.