Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
July 2010 Issue
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Snoring linked to learning difficulties in children

University of Adelaide researchers have shown that children who snore frequently have a lower IQ and experience problems with memory loss, language development and general knowledge.

The sleep disorders team at the University's Children's Research Centre has found that even the mildest forms of sleep breathing disorders can cause learning problems in children.

Dr Declan Kennedy and his colleagues have spent the past seven years evaluating treatment outcomes for a large cohort of children aged between three and 12 years who have sleep breathing disorders.

"Our data to date has shown that removing tonsils and adenoids clearly improves sleep and breathing problems, but is not associated with an improvement in general intelligence," he said.

Although 5-10% of children are believed to suffer from sleep breathing problems, less than one in 10 of these children in Australia have their adenoids and tonsils removed.

Sleep breathing disorders range from frequent snoring to sleep apnoea, and are linked to the structure of the child's airways as well as respiratory muscle control. Obesity also increases the risk among older children.

A regular sleep routine and an appropriate amount of sleep dependent on age are important for optimal brain function, researchers said.

"The future focus of our research is on sleep disordered breathing in younger children," Dr Kennedy said. "In particular, we are hoping to determine how common this condition is among children aged 1-4, and if treatment at an earlier age leads to better daytime functioning."

The research is a collaborative effort between the Children's Research Centre at the University of Adelaide and the Women's and Children's Hospital, and has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Story by Candy Gibson

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Eight-year-old Bethany undergoes an overnight study for sleep apnoea at the Sleep Disorders Unit at the Women’s and Children Hospital
Photo courtesy of the Children’s Research Centre

Eight-year-old Bethany undergoes an overnight study for sleep apnoea at the Sleep Disorders Unit at the Women's and Children Hospital
Photo courtesy of the Children's Research Centre

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