Sleep Disorders

11 September 2006

Poor sleep can impact on kids

Sleep-related breathing and movement disorders in children are linked to attention-deficit and behavioural problems, researchers report.

Sleep-related breathing and movement disorders in children are linked to attention-deficit and behavioural problems, researchers report. These problems can affect kids' memory, academic performance, functioning and ability to socialise, say studies in the current issue of Sleep.

One study analysed previous research on the relationship between childhood sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and neurobehavioural functioning. SDB is a group of disorders that includes obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring.

About 10% to 12% of children snore. While obstructive sleep apnea is more common in adults, it may be diagnosed in children with large tonsils.

This University of Cincinnati study found strong evidence of an association between childhood SDB and deficits in behaviour and emotion regulation, school performance, sustained attention, selective attention and alertness. It also found some evidence that SDB can affect a child's mood, expressive language skills, visual perception and working memory.

Teeth grinding and leg movements
A second study, by researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia, found that many children with bruxism - grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep - also suffered disturbed sleep and were at increased risk for attention and behaviour problems.

This study of 10 children found that eight of them had bruxism. Of those, 66% experienced disturbed sleep and, in this subset, 40% had significant attention and behaviour problems. About 14% to 17% of children have bruxism, and about a third of children with bruxism will still continue to have it as adults. The study authors recommended that children undergo early screening for bruxism.

A third study found that, among people younger than age 40, "periodic leg movements" occur more often during the daytime. In people over age 40, they occur more often during sleep.

Periodic leg movements refer to episodes of simple, repetitive uncontrollable muscle movements. It most often occurs in the lower legs. It can reach the level of a condition called "periodic limb movement disorder," which may be a factor in depression, poor memory, short attention span, or fatigue.

People whose sleep is severely disturbed by periodic leg movements can suffer extreme daytime tiredness, researchers said. It can also disrupt the lives of people who experience it during the daytime, the study authors said. - (HealthDayNews, September 2006)

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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