WEDNESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that sleep problems early in life may boost the risk of developmental disabilities by the age of 8.
Researchers found that kids who suffered from problems like sleep apnea and snoring in their infant, toddler and preschool years were more likely to need special education services for conditions such as speech and behavioral problems a few years later.
Although the study found an association between the two factors, it did not prove cause and effect. The higher risk of disabilities could be a statistical fluke, or something else besides sleep problems may explain it. Also, the results were limited because the children, all from England, were 98 percent white.
Still, the findings are worrisome, said study author Karen Bonuck, a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Department of Family and Social Medicine, in New York City.
"We've got a generation of children potentially at risk from long-term developmental deficits that might occur from these sleep problems," Bonuck said. "Parents need to be vigilant."
The study authors looked at previous research involving thousands of children. Their parents had answered surveys about whether the kids showed signs of sleeping problems -- such as snoring, nightmares, waking in the night and mouth-breathing -- at various ages from 6 months to more than 5 years. The researchers then followed up to track the number of children who appeared to have special education needs at age 8.
Kids with the worst sleeping problems, as defined by the researchers, made up 934 of 11,049 children, about 8 percent. They had the highest risk of having special education needs at age 8, even when researchers adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as high or low numbers of kids with certain IQs.
In another analysis, 1,825 kids -- out of a
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