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.