A recent study has investigated how obstructive sleep apnea in children can impact memory consolidation. Over the years we are finding out more secrets about sleep and the way it can alter many day to day things. It seems that a broken sleep pattern could be more harmful to our memory function than first thought. One of the many things that sleep plays a part in is memory consolidation. Rapid eye movement (REM) has always been deemed important, but science has revealed that non-REM is also of interest. If sleep helps to firm up our memories then broken sleep is not going to have a good result.
It is thought that as many as 1 in 10 children suffer from Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB). This refers to symptoms including degrees of airway collapse, such as sleep apnea and snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most severe and can stop the sufferer from breathing for as long as 20-40 seconds many times a night. This causes blood oxygen levels to decrease. Fragmented sleep has been proven to have a negative result on adult memory consolidation but there have been very few studies on children.
This recent study tested 36 children aged 5-9 and, as expected, those who suffered from OSA had impaired memory consolidation. Although this was a relatively small study, it was fairly in depth and this is evidence that even mild levels of SDB and OSA can interrupt the memory process in children. Treatment for mild OSA is recommended in order to ensure your child has minimal interference with their memory consolidation. Children that have this issue for many years with out treatment are running the risk of it harming their learning and making academic life more of a struggle.