Children who have problems breathing during sleep tend to score lower on tests of mental development and intelligence than do other children their age, according to two studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both studies appear in the October issue of Journal of Pediatrics.
The first study, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), found that at one year of age, infants who have multiple, brief breathing pauses (apnea) or slow heart rates during sleep scored lower on mental development tests than did other infants of the same age. The second study was funded primarily by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Results show that 5-year-old children who had frequent snoring, loud or noisy breathing during sleep, or sleep apneas observed by parents scored lower on intelligence, memory, and other standard cognitive tests than other children their age. They were also more likely to have behavioral problems.
"The findings from these studies support other research that has shown that breathing problems during sleep are associated with serious health consequences in children," said Carl E. Hunt, M.D., director of the NIH National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR). "However, at this point we dont know if the sleep problems during these episodes cause the decline in test scores or if the sleep episodes and the lower test scores are both related to some common underlying mechanism."
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