Sleep apnea isn’t just an adult problem.
Long known for causing a number of maladies in adults such as daytime fatigue, high blood pressure, and heart and liver problems, sleep apnea leads to problems for children such as attention deficit and compromised language skills, according to University of Chicago researchers.
Their study evaluated more than 1,300 children between the ages of 5 and 7. Some suffered from varying degrees of sleep apnea while others showed no signs of the condition. The children were grouped based on their sleep apnea severity. Each of them completed sleep assessment questionnaires, an overnight sleep study and language and cognition tests.
The findings, presented at the American Thoracic Society Conference, showed that snoring, even if not very severe, has a negative effect on memory and language. The lead author said that while evidence suggesting a link between sleep apnea and learning deficits has been shown before, these findings are the first to address that relationship with a large-scale study.
Sleep apnea symptoms in children include snoring loudly on a regular basis, having gasps or pauses that wake them, and general restlessness while they sleep. Prolonged, untreated sleep apnea has been associated with behavioral and learning problems. The symptoms are very similar to ADHD, including hyperactivity and poor concentration.
The researchers anticipate the findings will help develop better cognitive tests for children diagnosed with sleep apnea in order to guide the treatment process.
If you suspect your child has sleep apnea, contact a pediatrician for an evaluation and to discuss treatment options.