Several recent medical studies have been released that show that sleep apnea causes teens to experience social problems. As shown in many studies, children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) often suffer from such social problems when entering adolescence. Many physical and emotional changes occur during this period of adolescence. Because this period is so critical to a teen’s development, those who experience obstructive sleep apnea during this time also often experience behavioral and learning problems as well.
A kind of sleep abnormality, obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where the individual stops breathing regularly as the airway becomes blocked. There are common symptoms such as snoring and snorting or gasping for breath, which can take place up to 30 times an hour.
Researchers at the University of Arizona conducted many studies of children with OSA. To examine the connection between OSA and adolescence, two studies were conducted on 263 children. Each study was conducted five years apart so that the effects of OSA could be analyzed over time.
The results of these studies were consistent. They showed that children with sleep apnea through their teen years experienced higher rates of various behavioral problems. They showed more aggressive behavior and shortened attention spans. They had no control over their emotions and were hyperactive. These teens also had problems in handling social situations and could not properly relate with their peers. Moreover, they exhibited a reduced capacity to responsibly look after themselves.
The lead author of the research is Michelle Perfect who served as assistant professor of disability and psychoeducational studies at the University of Arizona. She reported in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine news release that if it remains untreated, sleep apnea will negatively affect a teenager’s ability to manage and control their emotions, behaviors, and social interactions. Such behaviors are hindrances to the skills needed to be successful in school, such as the ability to care for themselves or handle themselves in socially appropriate ways.
These results did not consider sex, race and ethnicity; body mass (BMI) or age as factors of sleep apnea. But it suggests that the absence of sleep apnea is favorable in the development of children as the move on to adolescence.
The result of this study covering the connection between sleep apnea and social problems in teens was presented at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting in Boston. Please bear in mind that this research has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Thus, the results of these studies should be considered preliminary findings. If you are worried that obstructive sleep apnea may be affecting you or someone in your family, contact a sleep specialist to get the help you need.
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