Sleep Apnea Damages Your Child's Brain

Should your son or daughter be carrying around a few extra pounds and seem to be walking around in a fog due to a lack of sleep, unfortunately, sleep apnea, exacerbated by childhood obesity, may be doing far more damage than you realize. Sleep apnea, left untreated in children, can significantly drain the brain power of children, according to a new study.

Researchers compared the health of 19 children with moderate to severe sleep apnea to a dozen healthy controls (ages 6-16). Additionally, six sleep apnea patients and a like number of controls received MRIs to evaluate the health of their brain neurons. The results were frightening:

  • Based on the MRIs, those suffering from sleep apnea had significant alterations in the hippocampus and right frontal cortex, areas linked to higher mental functioning.
  • Differing ratios of three brain chemicals (choline, creatine and N-acetyl aspartate) indicated signs of brain damage.
  • Healthy children without sleep apnea scored some 15 percent higher on IQ tests (101-85) than those who had it.

Although scientists worry these effects on a child's brain may be permanent, the sooner sleep apnea can be treated, the better off they'll be. These tips can help you get their health going in the right direction.

Public Library of Science Medicine, Vol. 3, No. 8, August 2006 Free Full Text Study

Yahoo News August 23, 2006

The (Lakeland, Fla.) Ledger August 25, 2006

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