Sleep-disordered breathing symptoms are associated with poorer cognitive function in 5-year-old children

J Pediatr. 2004 Oct;145(4):458-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2004.05.039.


Objective: To assess the relation of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) symptoms in children to neurocognitive function.

Study design: A cross-sectional, population-based study of 205 5-year-old children. A parent-completed questionnaire was used to ascertain SDB symptoms, defined as frequent snoring, loud or noisy breathing during sleep, or witnessed sleep apnea. Polysomnography (PSG) data were available in 85% of children. Standardized neurocognitive tests were administered by a trained psychometrist unaware of the children's SDB status. Children with (n=61) and without SDB symptoms were compared using analysis of variance to adjust for demographic and respiratory health variables.

Results: Children with SDB symptoms scored significantly lower than those without SDB symptoms on tests of executive function (95.5 vs 99.9 on NEPSY Attention/Executive Core Domain, P=.02; 10.4 vs 11.2 on Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Revised [WPPSI-R] Animal Pegs test, P=.03), memory (96.8 vs 103.0 on NEPSY Memory Domain, P=.02), and general intellectual ability (105.9 vs 111.7 on WPPSI-R Full Scale IQ, P=.02). There were no significant differences on a computerized continuous performance task. These findings persisted when children with PSG evidence of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) were excluded from analysis.

Conclusion: Even in the absence of OSA, SDB symptoms are associated with poorer executive function and memory skills and lower general intelligence in 5-year-old children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / psychology*
  • Wechsler Scales