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Snoring and Cognition

Learn how snoring disorders can effect cognition in your children on this Moment of Science.

Snoring can be pretty disturbing to people who sleep in the company of snorers, as well as to the snorer himself, though she may not realize it. For instance, some snorers have a condition called obstructive sleep apnea. Their airways become obstructed various times while they’re sleeping, and each time this happens the snorer briefly stops breathing.

What’s more, obstructive sleep apnea has been shown to affect the cognitive abilities and behavior of children with the condition. They demonstrate difficulties with language and attentiveness, and they score lower on overall tests of intelligence.

Until now it has not been known whether children who snore, but who do not have obstructive sleep apnea, are at risk, too, for these cognitive and behavioral problems. However, recent research shows that many children without this particular condition, but who nonetheless snore, do test significantly lower than do non-snorers in these same areas of cognition and behavior. Which children who snore are at risk and which are not is not clear yet and will require further research.

In the meantime, if your child snores frequently and seems to experience learning and/or behavioral problems, you might consult a sleep specialist to find out whether or not your child has obstructive sleep apnea. There are various causes of frequent snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, but the most common causes are enlarged tonsils and an enlarged adenoids. In these cases the removal of the tonsils or adenoids can be an effective treatment.

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