Blood pressure regulation, autonomic control and sleep disordered breathing in children

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Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) ranges in severity from primary snoring (PS) to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). In adults, SDB is associated with adverse cardiovascular consequences which are mediated, in part, by autonomic dysfunction. Although SDB is common in children, fewer paediatric studies have investigated these cardiovascular effects. Initial research focused on those with OSA, indeed children with PS were occasionally utilised as the comparison control group. However, it is essential to understand the ramifications of this disorder in all its severities, as currently the milder forms of SDB are often untreated. Methodologies used to assess autonomic function in children with SDB include blood pressure (BP), BP variability, baroreflex sensitivity, heart rate variability, peripheral arterial tonometry and catecholamine assays. The aim of this review was to summarise the findings of paediatric studies to date and explore the relationship between autonomic dysfunction and SDB in children, paying particular attention to the roles of disease severity and/or age. This review found evidence of autonomic dysfunction in children with SDB during both wakefulness and sleep. BP dysregulation, elevated generalised sympathetic activity and impairment of autonomic reflexes occur in school-aged children and adolescents with SDB. The adverse effects of SDB seem somewhat less in young children, although more studies are needed. There is mounting evidence that the cardiovascular and autonomic consequences of SDB are not limited to those with OSA, but are also evident in children with PS. The severity of disease and age of onset of autonomic consequences may be important guides for the treatment of SDB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179 - 189
Number of pages11
JournalSleep Medicine Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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