Sleep related breathing problems and behaviour

A link, suggested by previous research, between children's sleep-related breathing problems (snoring and apnea) and daytime behaviour issues has been given further support by a new study carried out at the University of Michigan in the US.

This latest research involved a sample of 78 children who had their tonsils and adenoids removed and 27 children who had unrelated surgery.

Those children in the study who had tonsillectomies showed improvements in both sleeping and behaviour and, out of 22 of these who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) before the surgery, half did not have the condition a year later.

Whilst sleep and behaviour difficulties are only part of the ADHD puzzle, and it is not claimed that the removal of tonsils is a 'cure' for this condition, it is clear that children with sleep-disordered breathing also have a higher incidence of behaviour issues.

The study confirms the importance of carrying out a thorough evaluation of children with ADHD, including an assessment of whether they have symptoms which would suggest sleep-disordered breathing. It also indicates that, where there is a breathing problem, tonsillectomy is an option that should be considered.

It is not clear at the moment how many children with ADHD also have undiagnosed sleep-related breathing problems, but it is thought that a substantial minority might.
(Pediatrics, April 2006; vol 117: pp 769-778.)

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First published in April 2006

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