Are Your Child's Behavioural Problems Caused by Sleep Apnoea? 4 Signs to Look Out For

Posted on: 22 September 2016

Behavioural problems in children are often thought of as a mental or developmental health concern. If your child has been displaying adverse behaviour, you may already have seen a psychiatrist or counsellor to diagnose their symptoms. Alternatively, you may be trying to work through things at home. Either way, when nothing improves, you're left at your wit's end wondering how to help your child through this stage.

Consider this: have you ever thought that your child's sleep could be influencing their behaviour? Many parents are aware that a tired child is a displeased child, but the problem could go further than sleepiness from late bedtimes. Over the last few years, paediatric research has shown that sleep apnoea is a major cause of behavioural problems in children.

Sleep apnoea makes a child's muscles relax so much that their airway is obstructed. After a short period of not breathing, the brain sends signals to the body to consciously breathe, which can cause a child to wake up and lose sleep. Children with sleep-disordered breathing are proven to be 4 to 6 times more likely to suffer from issues like attention-seeking, poor communication and social skills, hyperactivity, and lack of self-care. These children are also 3 times more likely to receive C-grades or lower on their school work, and 7 times more likely to be described as having learning issues.

Could sleep apnoea be the explanation you've been searching for? It may be more likely than you think, as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that 1 in 50 healthy children are afflicted by this problem. If you think sleep-disordered breathing is the root of your child's behaviour, here are 4 signs to look out for while you wait for an appointment with your paediatrician.

1. Snoring at Night

Did you know that snoring is a cause for concern in healthy children? Irregular snoring could be caused by something fleeting like an infection or allergy. However, repeated or nightly snoring indicates a more serious problem like sleep apnoea. Aside from loud snoring, you may also notice your child gasping or snorting during the night.

2. Strange Sleeping Positions

While a child sleeping in an odd position may look cute, it can also indicate restless sleep and disordered breathing. Children with sleep apnoea will often hold their head in a weird position when sleeping, such as tilting it abnormally far back. They may also tend to sleep on their stomachs or sides more, which usually reduces snoring and promotes more regulated breathing.

3. Soaked Pyjamas and Bedding

There are two main causes of wet pyjamas and bedding, and both of them are linked to sleep apnoea in children. The first is bedwetting, which can occur because a child's sleep is so interrupted that when they finally do get some rest, they're too tired to wake up and use the toilet. The second is excessive sweating, which can sometimes be so severe that it soaks through fabrics. Both of these can indicate sleep-disordered breathing.

4. Frequent Daydreaming

While falling asleep in class is often picked up on, daydreaming is passed off as normal by many teachers. However, sometimes frequent daydreaming can indicate excessive tiredness. If a child is too tired to focus on work, it doesn't take much for them to zone out and stare into space. Daydreaming is often seen as the sole cause of poor grades. For your child, it could just be a symptom of a greater cause -- sleep apnoea.


Vaccination fact and figures

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