August 22, 2006
Helen Chickering, NBC News
Los Angeles -- A new study sends a wake-up call to parents of snoring children. The Night time noise is often a symptom of a sleep disorder that has been Linked to learning and behavior problems. And now the latest research Suggests in some cases - the disorder may damage the brain.
Snoring is a serious subject in kids - a growing body of research shows children who suffer with the sleep disorder called apnea, in which the airway gets blocked during sleep are at a higher risk for behavior and Learning problems.
"It may well be that some people who are thought to have ADD or Learning Disabilities have more importantly a sleep disorder," says UCLA School of Medicine Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Eric Saslow.
The latest study - finds children with severe apnea - called Obstructive Sleep Apnea - had significantly lower scores on IQ, memory and language skills tests compared to youngsters without the sleep disorder.
In addition, imaging studies showed brain changes in the apnea children- Similar to changes found in adult apnea patients.
The Johns Hopkins Researchers say the findings suggest that untreated childhood obstructive Sleep apnea could permanently alter a developing child's learning potential. The take home message for parents - pay attention to your child's sleep habits.
Researchers say it is not clear if the brain cell injury detected in the Study can be reversed with treatment for sleep apnea. They note that The disorder is easily treated. It is estimated that 2% of American kids have some form of obstructed breathing during sleep.
Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are often the cause, obesity and chronic allergies also play a role. Along with chronic snoring - symptoms of sleep apnea in children may also Include excessive daytime sleepiness and irritability or hyperactivity.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine looked at 19 children aged 6-16 with OSA and compared them with 12 healthy controls. The children underwent sleep tests, a battery of neuropsychological assessments, including IQ tests, and tests of executive function, and a group of children were assessed by magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a special form of brain imaging.
Children with OSA had significantly lower scores than matched controls on full scale IQ tests and significantly lower performance on measures of executive function, including verbal working memory (sentence span) and word fluency.
The special brain imaging (proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging) showed decreases in the mean neuronal metabolite ratio of N-acetyl aspartate/choline in the left hippocampus and right frontal cortex, indicating possible neuronal injury in these areas.
Link to the published article: Http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030301