Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disturbance which affects up to five per cent of all children.
According to a survey, kids between 7 and 11 years of age who had moderate or severe obstructive sleep apnea showed significant reductions of gray matter and affects brain cells involved in movement, memory, emotions, speech, perception, decision making and self-control.
Sleep apnea and the loss of neurons has a strong connection in the development of the brain.
“The images of gray matter changes are striking. There is also clear evidence of widespread neuronal damage or loss compared to the general population,” said Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, Director at the University of Chicago in the US.
The team evaluated sleep patterns of 16 children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to form the report.
Each child also went through neuro-cognitive testing and had his or her brain scanned with non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Reasearchers found a reduction in the volume of gray matter in many parts of the brain of children with disrupted sleep.
These included the frontal cortices – which handle movement, problem solving, memory, language, judgement and impulse control – the prefrontal cortices – complex behaviours, planning, personality – parietal cortices -integrating sensory input – temporal lobe – hearing and selective listening -and the brainstem – controlling cardiovascular and respiratory functions.
This is a treatable disorder. Thus parents should be careful to detect early symptoms and use therapy to help the child with symptoms of sleep apnea.