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Snoring in Children Linked to Brain Changes
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Snoring in Children Linked to Brain Changes

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Highlights
  • Children who snore regularly are more likely to develop behavioral problems and learning disabilities
  • Snoring children may be experiencing gray matter loss in their brains
  • Study highlights the need to properly diagnose snoring abnormalities in children

Children who regularly snore in their sleep may experience gray matter loss in the brain and behavioral issues like lack of focus, hyperactivity, and learning difficulties as a result, reveals a new study from researchers at the University of Maryland. The findings of the study are published in Nature Communications.

Earlier studies have shown that habitual snoring is characterized by recurrent episodes of narrowing of the upper airway known as obstructive sleep disordered breathing, which leads to intermittent hypoxia (low oxygen in tissues) and disturbance in sleep pattern.

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The present study focuses on the impact of habitual snoring in the structure of brain in children and its consequences on their behavior.

Obstructive Sleep Disordered Breathing in Children

Obstructive sleep-disordered breathing is a group of conditions associated with snoring. In children it is characterized by resistance to breathing during sleep, resulting in snoring. Habitual snoring can influence the child's neurological development.

"This is the largest study of its kind detailing the association between snoring and brain abnormalities," said study lead author Amal Isaiah, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Otorhinolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Snoring and Brain Changes in Children

The long-term Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study about brain development and child health in the US involved children aged 9 to 10 years, and they scrutinized MRI images of more than 10,000 children who were considered to be habitual snorers by their parents.
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The finding revealed that children who snored three or more times per week had thinner graymatter in the frontal lobes of their brains. The frontal lobes of the brain are responsible for higher reasoning skills and impulse control.

The thinner cortex correlated with the behavioral changes linked to a severe form of sleep disordered breathing called sleep apnea. The snoring habit affects the breathing pattern and oxygen supply to the brain due to disturbed sleep in night. These brain changes focus the attention to diagnose and treat snoring abnormalities in children

"These brain changes are similar to what you would see in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children have loss of cognitive control which is additionally associated with disruptive behavior," added Amal Isaiah.

What Causes Snoring in Children?

The most common risk factors include:
  • Large or swollen tonsils and adenoids
  • Being overweight Seasonal allergies and asthma
  • Air pollution

Tips to Reduce Snoring in Children

The findings point to sleep-disordered breathing as a potential reversible cause of behavioral problems, suggesting that children might routinely be screened for snoring.

Reference:
  1. Associations between frontal lobe structure, parent-reported obstructive sleep disordered breathing and childhood behavior in the ABCD dataset: Amal Isaiah et al: Nature Communications 2021 - (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/snoring/snoring-children)


Source: Medindia

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