Having trouble sleeping and experiencing snoring or other breathing problems could result in kids having poor performance in school, recent research has shown.
The study was published on September 7, in the “Pediatrics” journal and it was led by Barbara Galland, from the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Researchers analyzed data collected by 16 prior studies, conducted in 12 countries, each of them including around 550 participants aged 5 to 17.
The variables which were analyzed were the kids’ grades (as reported by tutors or parents), in conjunction with troublesome symptoms occurring during sleep, such as regular snoring or apnea (shallow, infrequent or even interrupted breathing).
It was established that those subjects whose sleeping patterns were marked by snoring and apnea had scored 12% worse than those who had no such trouble while resting. More precisely, math grades were 13.1% lower, literature and language grades were 12.3% lower, while science scores were had dropped by 11.6%.
Overall, the kids didn’t perform worse than their peers throughout the entire academic year, and their average achievements remained in the range of typical pupils, but at specific assessments a negative effect was still identified. Also, it was proven that kids react differently to such sleep issues, certain subjects being less affected than others.
“Some children with sleep-disordered breathing may be performing less well on the tests. What we do not know is which children are more likely to do less well”, explained Galland.
As the researcher pointed out, sleep apnea may contribute to kids not getting a good night’s sleep, leading them to have trouble paying attention during class, and thus showing diminished receptivity to new information presented by teachers. This in turn may result in learning difficulties and lower academic performance.
The study findings suggest that doctors, teachers and parents likewise should develop higher awareness regarding the effects of sleep apnea, in order to identify its symptoms and help children who are affected by this condition.
The most common signs are the following: snoring mixed with choking noises and gasps for air, noisy or interrupted breathing, restless or discontinuous sleep, and sleeping with the mouth open. If such occurrences are identified, kids should receive additional evaluation and treatment.
Greater importance should be given to this area and further research should be conducted, especially since around 1 in every 100 elementary school children experiences breathing disorders while sleeping, as a 2009 study published in the “Sleep” journal has revealed.
Untreated sleep apnea has been associated with a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart trouble.
One solution for this condition could be removing the child’s tonsils and adenoids, which could be causing labored breathing and snoring. Improper jaw alignment could also be a contributing factor, which could be corrected through dental treatment.
Other conditions such as obesity have also been linked to breathing problems during rest, which is why a multidisciplinary approach to this complex area is advisable.
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