Aggressive behavior and bullying, common among schoolchildren, are likely to have multiple causes, one of which may be an undiagnosed sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD), according to a research abstract presented at SLEEP 2007, the 21st Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).
The study, conducted by Louise M. O'Brien, PhD, of the University of Michigan, focused on children in the second through fifth grades who attended school in an urban public school district. Parents completed two well-validated instruments: the Conner's Parent Rating Scale (CPRS) the Pediatric Sleep Questionnaire SDB Scale. Teachers completed the Conner's Teacher Rating Scale (CTRS). The numbers of discipline referrals in the previous 12 months were obtained from the six elementary schools.
A total of 345 CPRS's and 245 corresponding CTRS's were completed. It was discovered, through both methods, that schoolchildren who bully may be more likely to have an SRBD than their peers.
"Treatment of an SRBD has been shown to improve other behaviors in children. Therefore, it is possible that treatment could reduce such behaviors and provide a novel way to target bullying and aggressive behaviors in the school setting," said O'Brien.
An SRBD may be a problem in more than 10 percent of children. It occurs when the airway is partially blocked during sleep. The most common example is snoring. The most severe form of an SRBD is obstructive sleep apnea. It occurs in about one percent to two percent of children.
Parents who suspect that their child might be suffering from an SRBD, or another sleep disorder, are encouraged to consult with their child's pediatrician, who will refer them to a sleep specialist.