Witsken says the results did not surprise her in the least. "When Mallory was 3 years old, she was a crabby toddler all the time," she says, describing her daughter's past behavior as hostile and whiny, with frequent crying. When Mallory reached first grade, Witsken says, "she struggled in school from being tired and having poor attention."
Several teachers guessed that Mallory had ADHD based on her behavior and performance in school -- a common misunderstanding, says Shelby Harris, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at Montefiore Medical Center.
"A sleepy kid doesn't always look sleepy, he may look more hyperactive," Harris says. "As a result, an overtired child may look more like an ADD child and confuse the diagnostic picture even more."
Remarkably, Witsken noticed a distinct improvement in Mallory's behavior when her snoring resolved. After each of Mallory's three adenoid removal surgeries, her mother remembers a temporary period lasting for roughly one year during which Mallory was both snore-free and bad behavior-free.
"Mallory was like a completely different person," Witsken says. "She turned into a sweet child."
Pediatric sleep specialists say they are enthused by the findings.
"In my opinion, this study is very important," states Dr. Frisca Yan-Go, a neurologist from UCLA, "because it gives data to support clinicians in emphasizing that habitual snoring is not normal at any age."
Yan-Go explains that if a sleep-related breathing disorder disrupts a child's sleep, "[It] definitely will affect the child's daytime function, including behavior, learning and development."
Sleep experts say parents who have kids who snore loudly and persistently should inform their pediatricians as soon as they can.
"Snoring, especially in children, should not be ignored," Harris advises.
Yan-Go agrees, adding that parents should also check with their pediatricians to see if their child should be referred to an ENT or a sleep specialist. "The sooner the diagnosis and management, the better the outcome."
In the meantime, she suggests, the child should "sleep on a wedge pillow with the upper body elevated," and "other medical conditions like allergies, asthma then need to be evaluated and treated concurrently."
For Witsken's family, referral to the proper specialists made all the difference. She notes that after Mallory's third corrective adenoid surgery and uvuloplasty by an ear, nose and throat specialist, Mallory, now 8, can now play and enjoy her childhood.
"The biggest part," Witsken says, "is it completes your family and allows your family to live a normal life."