Researchers at the University of Virginia (UV) Health System say that children with sleep disorders face risks of intellectual impairment. Working with children with enlarged tonsils and adenoids, the researchers discovered that youngsters who snore nightly scored significantly lower on vocabulary tests than those who snore less often. "Vocabulary scores are known to be the best single predictor of a child's IQ and the strongest predictor of academic success," said UV's Paul M. Suratt.
Worryingly, Suratt says that the vocabulary differences associated with nightly snoring are equivalent to the IQ dissimilarities attributed to lead exposure. "Studies show that, even at nontoxic levels, lead exposure can reduce a child's IQ by more than seven points. We've also found that obstructive sleep disordered breathing occurs more often in African American children and, therefore, places them at greater risk of cognitive impairment," he noted.
Sleep disorders can be intellectually and behaviorally detrimental to children because they interrupt the deep sleep patterns needed for healthy development. At night, children with sleep disorders can be observed snoring, snorting, gasping, tossing and turning. During the day, these children can be irritable, hyperactive and unable to concentrate.
The researchers want to be able to predict which children with sleep disorders are most likely to suffer cognitive impairment or develop behavior problems. "It's more difficult than you would think," Suratt explained. "Children with sleep disordered breathing may have cognitive impairment even if they don't completely stop breathing, even if their oxygen levels don't fall and even if they don't totally wake up."
Source: University of Virginia Health System