Sleep disorders are in the genes

Children have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea if they have a sibling who has the sleep disorder, new research published in the journal SLEEP shows.

Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, occurs when airway passages become blocked during sleep, cutting off breathing for brief but frequent periods. It is often accompanied by heavy snoring. OSA is increasingly being recognised in children and the sleep disturbances caused by OSA can lead to daytime learning and behaviour problems in children, as well as more serious health consequences.

Dr. Daniele Friberg of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and colleagues sought to evaluate the role of heredity and environment in OSA and sleep-disordered breathing by looking at hospitalisation data for the entire population of Sweden age 18 and younger, a total of 2.7 million people.

Between 1997 and 2004, Friberg and her colleagues found, 854 boys and 627 girls received a hospital diagnosis of OSA. Another 13,656 boys and 11,648 girls were diagnosed with enlarged tonsils or enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

Boys who had a sibling diagnosed with OSA were 33.2 times more likely to have received the diagnosis themselves, while for girls the risk was increased 40.5-fold.

Boys with a sibling with enlarged tonsils or tonsils and adenoids were 4.53 times as likely to have enlarged tonsils or adenoids themselves, while the risk was nearly 5-fold greater for girls.

While the researchers weren't able to distinguish between the roles of heredity and early environment based on the data, they suggest that both may play a role in whether or not a child develops sleep-disordered breathing.

Based on the findings, Friberg said, parents and doctors should be on the lookout for symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing in the brothers and sisters of children diagnosed with the condition.

"Early diagnosis and treatment (of OSA) is important," Friberg noted in an email to Reuters Health, adding that "it may be a progressive syndrome with fatal consequences if left untreated."

Does your child have sleep apnea?

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
18% - 146 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
8% - 64 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
68% - 561 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
7% - 58 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.