New study links childhood snoring with poor academic performance

Children that snore are more likely to do badly at school, a recent study finds. Researchers from Otago University have just released a report that highlights the link between snoring or other sleep disorders in children and the development of learning difficulties.

Led by Professor Barbara Galland from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at the New Zealand university, researchers studied data gathered from 12 countries on literacy, numeracy and other academic evaluations and the link to sleep-disordered breathing (SDB).

As any adult knows who either snores themselves or lives with a snorer, the impact on sleep patterns is huge, leading to tiredness and exhaustion during the day that affects behaviour, focus and, in relation to children, ability to learn. Professor Galland believes that assessments of learning difficulties should include screening for snoring or other breathing problems. Often, parents do not discuss childhood SDB with doctors because they either think it's just a funny, relatively harmless habit they'll grow out of or that there's nothing that can be done.

Signs to look out for in a child suffering from SDB include the following:

  • behavioural and social problems
  • getting into trouble at school regularly
  • difficult to wake up in the morning
  • suffering from headaches, particularly in the morning
  • falling asleep during the day
  • sounding 'nasal' when speaking
  • breathing through the mouth
  • often irritable, aggressive or easily stressed
  • difficulty gaining weight

What are the causes of childhood snoring or SDB?

Most children will snore at one time or another, as a result of an allergy or infection that narrows the airways of the nose. However, long-term snoring that isn't linked to a bout of flu or hay fever, is thought to affect 10 per cent of children and can be for several reasons. Sometimes it is caused by a congenital factor that the child has been born with, such as small airways or a small jaw. Sometimes the muscles in the airways fail to open the airway enough during sleep, or there may be a blockage such as a deviated septum or enlarged tonsils or adenoids.

The tonsils or adenoids, in fact, are the most common cause of sleeping disorders in children. A consultation with an ENT specialist such as Julian Hamann should be your next step as a surgical procedure to remove the tonsils or adenoids in the majority of cases should completely resolve the problem during childhood.