A new study in the Oct. 1 issue of the journal Sleep examined how obstructive sleep apnea affects heart rate and blood pressure in children.
The study involved 15 boys and 15 girls in Australia; they were between the ages of 7 and 12 years.
Ten children had primary snoring; 10 had mild sleep apnea with an average of 2.5 breathing pauses per hour of sleep; and 10 had moderate to severe OSA with a mean of 15.2 breathing pauses per hour of sleep.
The children were monitored during an overnight sleep study in a sleep lab. Heart rate and blood pressure were analyzed before, during and after obstructive breathing pauses.
Results show that the children had significant changes in heart rate and blood pressure. From the last half of a breathing pause to the 15 seconds after a pause, blood pressure increased up to 26.5%. Heart rate increased up to 28.1% during this same timeframe.
The authors report that the magnitudes of these changes are similar to levels reported in adults. They also suggest that these repetitive changes may contribute to the development of high blood pressure.
Last year a study suggested that sleep apnea is significantly associated with higher levels of “systolic” blood pressure in children. This is the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood.
Another study found that children with sleep apnea had higher blood pressure than healthy children during sleep and while awake. Children with moderate to severe OSA also had a higher risk for both systolic and “diastolic” high blood pressure at night. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
In June the Sleep Education Blog reported that the causes of sleep apnea in children are complex. Common factors include weight, tonsil size and nasal problems.
The AASM reports that OSA can develop in children at any age; but it is most common in preschoolers.
Learn more about obstructive sleep apnea in children on SleepEducation.com.