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New risk factors for children with sleep-disordered breathing study

Margaret Jack  By Margaret Jack   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Monday 18th February 2013

Results from a new study suggest that the risk factors for sleep-disordered breathing in children may be very different than those for adults

Finnish researchers looked at sleep-disordered breathing in 491 children aged between 6 and 8. The study was part of a larger research project on children’s health. They analysed the prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing among the children and also examined risk factors that may contribute to the sleep disorder, including tonsil size, jaw position and facial proportions. In the study, sleep-disordered breathing was defined as frequent or loud snoring, breathing through the mouth during sleep and sleep apnea.

The results found that 9.9% of children had some type of sleep-disordered breathing and the rate was the same for both the boys and girls who participated. The average body-fat percentage was 20.6 for girls and 15.0 for boys and11.4% of boys and 15.6% of girls were overweight or obese. It was found that body fat was not linked with an increased risk of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep-disordered breathing was no more common among obese and overweight children than the children in the study that were normal weight. Surprisingly certain craniofacial features seemed to be associated with an increased risk of sleep-disordered breathing; enlarged tonsils were 3.7 times as likely to experience symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing, cross bite – a dental condition where teeth are out of alignment – increased the risk 3.3 times and finally convex facial profiles – faces that have a prominent forehead and brow line – were 2.6 times more likely to suffer from sleep-disordered breathing than children with other facial types.

These results suggest that the risk factors for sleep-disordered breathing in children may be very different than those for adults. The most significant risk factor of sleep-disordered breathing in adults is excess body weight. Other research indicates that 70% of adults who are morbidly obese have obstructive sleep apnea. This study shows that excess weight may not be a risk factor for children and others things such as facial features may be more significant at indicating the risk of sleep-disordered breathing.

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