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Toddler's snoring signals rough road ahead

August 13, 2012|By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times | For the Booster Shots Blog
  • Ernie snores. But other toddlers who do snore are at greater risk of behavior problems.
Ernie snores. But other toddlers who do snore are at greater risk of behavior… (Mark Lannahan / Associated…)

When other toddlers fall into blissfully silent slumber, does your wee one begin a noisy night of grunting, gasping and sawing? If so, brace yourself, because the terrible twos may just be the beginning of your child's trying behavior, says a new study.

The research found that children who snore persistently at 2 and 3 years of age were rated by their caregivers as more difficult, with behavior that tended toward hyperactive, inattentive, irritable and depressed. Other studies have found that as persistent snorers get older, those behavioral difficulties persist. Problems of emotional regulation can appear, and attention issues can interfere with academic success.

The latest study, published in Pediatrics, found that persistent snoring was particularly common in toddlers growing up in socioeconomically disadvantaged households, where either family income or parents' educational attainment or both were low. While other studies have found that African Americans were particularly prone to early snoring and the deficits that come with it, the current study found that low socioeconomic status was a better predictor of a toddler snoring.

Some young snorers stop snoring almost immediately after removal of the tonsils and adenoids. But the current study found a potentially far less invasive means of preventing snoring in toddlers: breast milk. Of the 249 mother-child pairs who were tracked through the babies' third year in the current study, none of the toddlers who were breast-fed for at least a year developed persistent snoring. Of those breast-fed for less than a month, nearly a quarter became persistent snorers.

Exposure to tobacco smoke also appeared to make snoring a greater likelihood for toddlers, although that finding was stronger for white babies than for African American babies.

Why is snoring, or sleep-disordered breathing, linked to so many problems, including, for adults, a higher risk of stroke, of metabolic dysfunction and obesity? Scientists surmise that the intermittent oxygen deprivation that comes with snoring and its fellow traveler, sleep apnea, may result in systemic inflammation and elevated oxidative stress. Research has found that weight loss is highly effective in reducing sleep apnea and snoring.


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