Science Daily recently reported in this article that certain sleep disorders are linked to behavior issues in kids. The study showed that children with sleep disordered breathing such as snoring or sleep apnea and who were also overweight, did not sleep enough, or had another sleep problem such as insomnia, were more likely to have behavior issues.
More than half of the participants with sleep disordered breathing who were studied were either overweight or at risk for being overweight (see this post about the link between sleep and obesity).
In addition 36% were identified as “short sleepers” and almost half had another sleep problem diagnosed in addition to the snoring or sleep apnea. “Forty-seven percent had a history of behavioral problems and 23 percent had a reported diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” Researchers were surprised that the strongest predictor of behavior problems was not the severity of the sleep apnea or snoring, but the presence of another sleep problem such as insomnia.
Of course, I notice my eldest son’s behavior plummet when he stops getting enough sleep. Just last week he accidentally napped and it resulted in he not falling asleep until 9:45 p.m. and waking at 6:50 p.m. the next day (he usually sleeps about 12 hours). That led to yet another nap and another late night and it snowballed into 2 mornings of one hour tantrums (ugh). Pitiful to watch and it breaks your heart when you know the reason, but can’t do anything much about it. What we ended up doing was skipping rest time on Saturday, so there was no nap and he was able to go to bed at a very good 7 p.m. and he slept until 7:15 or so the next day and we had our happy boy back. So, even though he doesn’t have sleep apnea (that I know of, but he does snore a little), I did not need a study to tell me that less sleep = behavior problems. But, I thought this was an interesting study to share. I am sure there are plenty of parents who feel they are doing all the right things and putting their child to bed early, and although it appears (s)he may be getting enough sleep, if their child has more going on than meets the eye, the parent may not understand the poor behavior. As my son grows and starts school, I can see how sensitive he is to missed sleep and how critical it will be that he get enough.