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Snoring ‘makes children more likely to misbehave… by re-wiring their brains’

A significant proportion is misdiagnosed as having ADHD - and treated with stimulant medications.

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Snoring triggers tantrums by cutting off oxygen to neurons that improve reasoning and control urges, say scientists.

Snoring makes children more likely to misbehave – by re-wiring their brains, according to new research.

It triggers tantrums by cutting off oxygen to neurons that improve reasoning and control urges, as stated by scientists.

The loss of grey matter also leads to learning difficulties at school.

Lead author Professor Amal Isaiah said: “These brain changes are similar to what you would see in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“Children have loss of cognitive control which is additionally associated with disruptive behaviour.”

The findings are based on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of more than 10,000 nine to ten year olds in the US.

They add to an increasing body of evidence that breathing difficulties at night harm children’s brain development.

Those who snored regularly – at least three times a week as reported by their parents – were prone to thinner frontal lobes.

Directly behind the forehead they are also involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, judgement and social relationships.

The phenomenon was linked to a range of problems including lack of focus, slower learning and impulsive actions.

Prof Isaiah said: “This is the largest study of its kind detailing the association between snoring and brain abnormalities.”

Around one in ten children regularly snore. Up to four per cent suffer a severe form called sleep apnoea.

Breathing is interrupted throughout the night – reducing oxygen to the brain. It’s often caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

The findings shed fresh light on the connection between snoring and inattention, hyperactivity and aggression, say the University of Maryland researchers.

A significant proportion is misdiagnosed as having ADHD – and treated with stimulant medications.

Prof Isaiah advised parents: “If you have a child who is snoring more than twice a week, that child needs to be evaluated.”

“We now have strong structural evidence from brain imaging to reinforce the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep disordered breathing in children.”

The condition can be treated by the surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids – the first line of treatment for youngsters who snore.

Co author Prof Linda Chang said: “”We know the brain has the ability to repair itself, especially in children, so timely recognition and treatment of obstructive sleep disordered breathing may attenuate these brain changes.

“More research is needed to validate such mechanisms for these relationships which may also lead to further treatment approaches.”

A follow-up study is planned to determine if the children who continued to snore experienced worsening brain findings on their MRI.

University Dean Prof Albert Reece added: “For the first time, we see evidence on brain imaging that measures the toll this common condition can take on a child’s neurological development.

“This is an important finding that highlights the need to properly diagnose snoring abnormalities in children.”

An earlier study of 11,000 British children tracked for over six years also identified higher rates of hyperactivity and aggressiveness – and fewer friends – among snorers.

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