The association between sleep and dual-task performance in preterm and full-term children: an exploratory study

Sleep Med. 2019 Mar:55:100-108. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2018.11.024. Epub 2018 Dec 19.


Objectives: The present study explored associations between sleep and children's dual-task performance using cognitive-motor dual tasks (eg, walking and talking). Previous research with older adults indicated correlations between higher gait variability and unfavorable sleep continuity variables. Based on this research, as a first objective, we investigated similar correlations in a sample of children. Second, we explored correlations between dual-task performance and dimensions of sleep architecture. Third, we tested moderating effects of prematurity on these associations.

Methods: In this study, 7-to 12-year-old children were tested in dual-task situations; of those, 39 were formerly preterm, and 59 were full-term born children. They were asked to walk and simultaneously perform different cognitive tasks. Gait was measured using an electronic walkway system. Sleep was measured using in-home sleep-electroencephalography.

Results: After accounting for age and cognition, regression analyses revealed correlations between a higher number of awakenings after sleep onset and lower dual-task performance; concerning sleep architecture, analyses revealed correlations between a higher amount of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep and lower gait variability. Furthermore, associations between a higher amount of slow wave sleep (SWS) and children's higher cognitive performance were found. Moderation analyses indicated no effects of prematurity.

Conclusions: Our exploratory study suggests that a more disrupted sleep was related to children's poorer dual-task performance. Our findings support claims that REM sleep seems more related to performance in procedural tasks whereas SWS seems more related to performance in declarative tasks, suggesting that different sleep stages may support the processing of different performance types.

Keywords: Dual task; Gait; Polysomnography; Prematurity; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Infant, Premature / psychology
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Term Birth / physiology*
  • Term Birth / psychology