Study Finds Sleep Problems In Young Children Linked To Greater Need For Special Education

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A new study led by Karen Bonuck found that young children with sleep-disordered breathing or behavioral sleep problems are at least 30 percent more likely to require special education by age 8.
A new study led by Karen Bonuck found that young children with sleep-disordered breathing or behavioral sleep problems are at least 30 percent more likely to require special education by age 8.

Kids who snore may be more likely to have behavioral problems, but that may not be all. A new study, published in Pediatrics this month, found that children with sleep problems through the age of 5 were more likely to require special education by age 8.

Karen Bonuck, a professor of family and social medicine at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein School of Medicine, led the study that gathered data from 11,049 children with sleep-disordered breathing -- a general term covering snoring and sleep apnea -- and 11,467 children with behavioral sleep problems. Bonuck found that children with one of these disorders were 30 percent more likely to need special education, while children with behavioral sleep problems, such as bedtime refusal or delayed sleep onset, were an additional 7 percent more likely to require speciality courses.

"What we found was that absolutely both behavioral and respiratory problems did increase the likelihood of special education," Bonuck told CBS News' HealthPop. "The take home from this is we need to be looking at these breathing and behavioral sleep problems at very young ages in these children."

The research follows from an earlier study led by Bonuck, published in Pediatrics in March, that linked sleep disorders in young children to the development of behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and aggressiveness.

"This is the strongest evidence to date that snoring, mouth breathing, and apnea can have serious behavioral and social-emotional consequences for children," Bonuck said in a statement.

Though Bonuck's new study does not prove cause and effect, sleep problems in young children may lead to a host of other issues outside the behavioral realm, including special education needs.

"We've got a generation of children potentially at risk from long-term developmental deficits that might occur from these sleep problems," Bonuck told HealthDay. "Parents need to be vigilant."

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