Sep. 11, 1997 African-American children with obstructive sleep apnea have significantly lower blood-oxygen levels compared to other groups, according to a study by sleep disorder researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.
The study, conducted by researchers at UIC's Center for Sleep and Ventilatory Disorders, evaluated nearly 200 children, 128 of whom were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening disorder in which breathing intermittently stops during sleep. The researchers found that the blood-oxygen saturation for African-American children was nearly 10 percent lower than all other children during sleep apnea episodes.
"We see many children with serious breathing problems because of sleep apnea," says researcher Edward Stepanski, associate professor of clinical psychology in medicine. "But we were surprised to find racial differences among children who experience dips in blood-oxygen levels even though they have similar severity of sleep apnea. African-American children with obstructive sleep apnea are experiencing faster and further drops in blood-oxygen levels."
"We don't know why this is happening," Stepanski adds. "Perhaps, it's related to hemoglobin or it could be the result of undiagnosed sickle cell anemia; or it might be the result of some physiological difference such as larger tonsils. We need to do further study to determine what biological processes account for this."
Previous studies have suggested that sleep apnea should be considered a risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular problems, and can have a significant impact on cognitive function, mood, and reaction time.
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