Health Team

Snoring babies at risk of childhood problems

Posted March 6, 2012

Snoring infants and toddlers have a higher risk of behavioral difficulties later in childhood, a new study finds.

The parents of 2-year-old Unique Harper had to get him help for snoring to help his behavior.

"He would be so cranky, and he would always want to hit his brothers," his mother, Hope Dukes, said.

Unique's aggressiveness and irritability led Dukes to take him to a specialist. Doctors did a sleep study and found that he had severe sleep apnea.

"They said he stopped breathing 25.5 times an hour, which was very shocking to me," Dukes said.

He also snored and breathed through his mouth. Doctors call these symptoms sleep-disordered breathing, or SDB.

Unique Harper Snoring babies at risk of childhood problems

A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children with SDB are at a significantly higher risk of behavioral problems by the time they are 7 years old. They're more likely to be inattentive, aggressive and impulsive and have emotional problems including depression and anxiety.

"If someone's not breathing correctly, it will cause someone to have disruptions in their sleep. It will make them more restless," said Dr. Pakkak Ngai, a pediatric pulmonologist with Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

An estimated 10 percent of children snore and about 4 percent have sleep apnea. That condition is often caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

Obesity is another common cause of SDB.

Unique had his tonsils and adenoids removed in December. Since then, he's started sleeping through the night, and his development is back on track.

"He's happy. He's talkative. He runs and hugs everyone. He's just a very happy child," Dukes said.


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  • pediatrician Mar 8, 2012

    Sleep apnea can lead to hyperactivity in some kids, and if left untreated can cause stress on the heart. Listen for "pauses" in your childs' respirations, in addition to just snoring.

  • wnt2rant Mar 8, 2012

    My son had the same snoring/tonsil issues as everyone else that has already commented. He is not aggressive in the least bit. Seems like they are making excuses for other things that are probably contributing to his aggression.

  • kannr Mar 7, 2012

    I've just turned 40 and did not grow up in this area, however a rural area in my state. My doctor said that my sleeplessness and other issues were due to my tonsils. These tests (other than sleep apnea) are not new. I was not aggressive, but rather passive. Had tonsils out at 18 and still rarely get sick. My oldest son had the same problem, tonsils out at 5, but he still had agression. Some of what our children are exposed to in the environment (like the boy in the article) is the cause, i.e., being forced to grow up too fast, bullying. Unfortunately today children have so many more issues to deal with from the time they can walk and talk than what most of us did growing up. Let kids get dirty, make them play outside and turn off the electronics and everyone will feel better.

  • not my real name Mar 7, 2012

    My 16 year old son had up to 96 apnea events per hour as shown by his sleep study. Had tonsils and adenoids removed last september and he's doing great. He snored like a freight train, so did his dad. It's made a huge improvement in his attitude and school work :)

  • raleighlynn Mar 6, 2012

    My son was one of these babies. He snored from day 1 due to "kissing tonsils". He had some other birth issues as well. Now he's 31 and a Marine air traffic controller, graduated first in his class. He's married with two kids of his own. None of these tests or concerns were available when he was a baby. He had his tonsils out fairly young. I feel blessed.