Sleep Apnea In Children Can Cause Significantly Lower IQ Scores
Sleep apnea is becoming increasingly common in children and the effects of night after night of poor sleep clearly has a marked effect on the development of our children. Indeed, it has been known for some time now that sleep apnea adversely affects a child's IQ. What has not been known however until quite recently is that sleep apnea in children causes changes within the brain which may or may not be permanent and which account for this drop in IQ.
Although it has been known for some time now that children with sleep apnea often produce poor scores on IQ tests (typically scoring an average of 85 against a score of 101 for children without sleep apnea) what has not been known until recently is that this results from chemical changes within the brain. This means that an otherwise 'smart' kid may well turn in a mediocre performance as a result of nothing more than a sleep disorder which, in most cases, can be quite easily treated.
In a study conducted at the Hopkin's Children's Centre in Baltimore, 31 children between the ages of 6 and 16 (19 of whom had severe sleep apnea) were examined using a special form or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and it was found that those children with sleep apnea showed significant changes in both the hippocampus and right frontal cortex - two areas of the brain associated with learning and higher mental function. The same study also discovered that these children had altered levels of three chemicals within the brain, indicative of brain damage.
This alteration of the brain chemistry brought about by the presence of sleep apnea may or may not be permanent and, at this stage, further studies are required to see whether or not this effect can be reversed. However, even if reversal is possible and the brain chemistry and cognitive function can be returned to normal, children with sleep apnea will suffer a loss in learning as long as they are suffering from untreated sleep apnea and they will certainly not be able to wind back the clock and regain this period of learning.
Parents should of course already be on the lookout for signs of sleep apnea in their children, but this latest study clearly indicates that an early diagnosis and treatment of this sleep disorder could have a very significant affect on a child's success in life.
The signs of sleep apnea include frequent pauses in breathing during sleep which often result in an arousal from sleep and tossing and turning in bed. Children may also display loud or labored breathing, snoring, coughing, gasping and, occasionally, bedwetting at an age when this phase should normally have passed. Parents may also notice a child sleeping in an odd position, perhaps with their bottom sticking up in the air and their head tilted back in an unconscious effort to force their airway open.
In most cases sleep apnea in children can be treated by the surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids, or excess tissue from the back of the throat or nose. In addition, a continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) machine may also be used to provide the child with a flow of air delivered through a mask worn while sleeping to keep the airway open.
Sleep apnea is in itself debilitating for any child and the effects of night after night of inadequate sleep will take their toll on your child. However, when this is combined with an impairment of your child's IQ, it becomes imperative that you act at the earliest possible opportunity to have this condition diagnosed and treated.
Article Tags: Sleep Apnea
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