Examine statistical effects of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) symptom trajectories from 6 months to 7 years on subsequent behavior.
Parents in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children reported on children’s snoring, mouth breathing, and witnessed apnea at ≥2 surveys at 6, 18, 30, 42, 57, and 69 months, and completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire at 4 (n = 9140) and 7 (n = 8098) years. Cluster analysis produced 5 “Early” (6–42 months) and “Later” (6–69 months) symptom trajectories (“clusters”). Adverse behavioral outcomes were defined by top 10th percentiles on Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire total and subscales, at 4 and 7 years, in multivariable logistic regression models.
The SDB clusters predicted ≈20% to 100% increased odds of problematic behavior, controlling for 15 potential confounders. Early trajectories predicted problematic behavior at 7 years equally well as at 4 years. In Later trajectories, the “Worst Case” cluster, with peak symptoms at 30 months that abated thereafter, nonetheless at 7 years predicted hyperactivity (1.85 [1.30–2.63]), and conduct (1.60 [1.18–2.16]) and peer difficulties (1.37 [1.04–1.80]), whereas a “Later Symptom” cluster predicted emotional difficulties (1.65 [1.21–2.07]) and hyperactivity (1.88 [1.42–2.49]) . The 2 clusters with peak symptoms before 18 months that resolve thereafter still predicted 40% to 50% increased odds of behavior problems at 7 years.
In this large, population-based, longitudinal study, early-life SDB symptoms had strong, persistent statistical effects on subsequent behavior in childhood. Findings suggest that SDB symptoms may require attention as early as the first year of life.