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June 06, 2011

Sleep Apnea Can Turn Your Child Into a School Bully

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This statement is supported by a published study indicating that poor sleep, whatever the cause, can be a factor leading a child to bully or display other aggressive behaviors. Among 341 kids who were evaluated, 23% had conduct problems. Of these kids with conduct issues compared to those without, a significant number had symptoms suggestive of a sleep disorder indicated by sleepiness scoring as well as snoring.
It is already known that the prefrontal cortex governs social behavior which is also influenced by sleep. As such, poor sleep can deleteriously influence the brain leading to behavior problems.

Of course, there are other factors that can contribute to sleep problems as well as bullying... such as an unstable family as well as too much technological stimulation (cell phone, internet, television, etc).

As such, as with most things, more study is needed.

But here's my two cents... Applying some common sense here, ask anybody who has pulled an all-nighter whether they are grouchy the next day and I bet you most will say "of course, no duh"!

Well, here's a study that supports that! (No duh!)

All kidding aside, if a child is having behavior issues, it may behoove the parents to see if obstructive sleep apnea is present which would lead to poor sleep quality. At least for kids, obstructive sleep apnea can be addressed surgically by removing the tonsils and adenoids leading to markedly improved sleep quality (and hopefully improved behavior as well!).

Reference:
Aggressive behavior, bullying, snoring, and sleepiness in schoolchildren. Sleep Med. 2011 May 25. [Epub ahead of print]
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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