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  • Writer's pictureCAFF Team


Updated: Jun 9, 2023

When discussing the long-term health impacts of childhood airway disorders one area that cannot be emphasized enough is the mental health impacts airway disorders have on kids.

Mental health and children with airway disorders

Childhood airway disorders can be seen in kids, as early as at birth, or in those diagnosed as being mouth breathing or having sleep-disorder breathing. Airway disorders can disrupt brain development causing attention, behavior, and learning issues for children. Sleep-disordered breathing in children can damage the prefrontal cortex of a child's brain causing hypoxic brain damage and lowering a child's IQ by as much as 10 points.

An individual with sleep-disordered breathing has extremely altered brain chemistry, changes in their metabolism and hormone balance, as well as their overall physical and mental wellbeing. If left untreated, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, acid reflux, and even fatal cancer.

Airway disorders in children often can be first identified through symptoms such as:

  • having trouble waking up and staying awake

  • ongoing issues focusing or paying attention in school ("brain fog")

  • finding it difficult to focus on and finishing schoolwork

  • being diagnosed with ADHD

  • experiencing abnormal irritability

  • ongoing issues with bed-wetting, nightmares, sleepwalking

With these symptoms and side-effects to deal with, often undiagnosed, it's no wonder that children and teens with airway disorders often experience anxiety, depression, and other mental issues.


Recently, the Surgeon General announced his focus on the "youth mental health crisis" currently being experienced in our country. According to his Protecting Youth Mental Health program document:

Symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms.
There also appears to be an increase in negative emotions or behaviors such as impulsivity and irritability — associated with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

As indicated in the program outline, mental health conditions can be shaped by biological factors, including genes and brain chemistry, and environmental factors, including life experiences.

Health factors, such as those caused by airway disorders, play a role as they impact a child's ability to function, often leading to bouts of depression, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness or not measuring up to their friends.


As the Surgeon General's program clearly indicates, our children's mental and physical health is in crisis mode. Education is the first step for any parent who might be concerned about their child's mental and physical health.

The Children's Airway First Foundation Resource library has information that can aid in identifying symptoms and providing guidance on the first steps towards helping your child with an airway disorder.

Children's Airway First Resource Library

As with any medical condition, consult your child's pediatrician should you see any of these symptoms in your child or if you suspect your child is suffering from an airway disorder.

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