If your child is not performing well at school, check if he or she is having trouble sleeping. Persistent snoring in young children can lead to severe obstructive sleep apnea, and this can adversely affect attention, memory and language development, a new study has found.
“Although evidence suggesting the presence of cognitive deficits in children with sleep apnea has been around for quite some time, the relatively small groups studied made it difficult to demonstrate a strong relationship between increasing cognitive issues and increasing sleep apnea severity,” Leila Gozal, MD, MSc, from the University of Chicago, said in a news release.
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition which makes a person to stop breathing for several seconds repeatedly during sleep. This results in drop of oxygen levels in blood temporarily. And, the drop in oxygen levels can lead to headaches, fatigue and a number of chronic medical conditions including high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease.
While the study did not show the effect of sleep apnea in children, earlier study has shown that in adults, sleep apnea is associated with poor decision-making, having trouble remembering something and depression.
In the study, the researchers recruited a total of 1,359 public school children with sleep apnea. The children were between the ages of five and seven. Some were snorers and some were not.
The researchers assigned them into one of four groups based on severity of sleep apnea. Then they were made to participate in sleep assessment questionnaires, an overnight sleep study where the detailed questions about their sleep were asked, and several cognitive functions including language and executive development were examined. After comparing measures of cognitive functioning in each of four groups, the researchers found that even snoring alone has a negative effect on cognition.
“Our findings provide further justification for exploration and development of simple cognitive batteries that can be coupled to the current clinical evaluation of children with habitual snoring such as to better guide the management of the decision-making process,” Gozal added.
The findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society’s ATS 2016 International Conference.