Sleep disruptions can impact children’s memory processes, according to a new study. The study, from a team of researchers from the University of Szeged and Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, found that children with sleep-disordered breathing score lower in declarative memory—the ability to consciously recall information—than children without sleep disordered breathing. The study is the first to compare the impact of disordered sleep on multiple types of memory. Its findings underscore the importance of seeking treatment for children’s sleep issues.
The researchers tested the memory of children aged 6 to 12. Seventeen children had sleep-disordered breathing and 17 children served as the control group. The researchers conducted two testing sessions, separated by a 12-hour gap for children to sleep. In each session, they tested the children’s declarative memory and non-declarative memory—the ability to learn new skills. Taking a break between the two sessions gave the children a chance to consolidate their memories during sleep.
The results demonstrated that disrupted sleep impacted declarative memory, but not non-declarative memory. The children with sleep-disordered breathing had lower declarative memory in the first and second testing sessions. This suggests that disrupted sleep can impact conscious learning and memory retention. Non-declarative memory was not impacted by sleep-disordered breathing in either the first or second testing session.
Lead study author Dezso Nemeth states that “Our results show that sleep disturbances have an impact on the developing brain and could affect the way children learn. It is crucial that we identify and diagnose any sleep problems early in childhood and properly treat them to prevent this. Our results have also helped us to pinpoint declarative memory as the memory process that is most affected.”
This research was presented at the 2015 Sleep and Breathing Conference.
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