Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Linked With Attention Problems In Kids: Study

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If your child is having trouble focusing while doing schoolwork, you might need to take a look at his or her sleep habits, a new study suggests.

New research published in the journal SLEEP shows that excessive daytime sleepiness (or EDS) is linked with an increased risk of trouble paying attention at school, being hyperactive, difficulty learning and conduct problems.

"When children are referred for neurobehavioral problems, they should be assessed for potential risk factors for EDS," study researcher Susan Calhoun, Ph.D., of Penn State University, said in a statement. "Recognizing and treating EDS can offer new strategies to address some of the most common neurobehavioral challenges in young school-age children."

The study included 508 children who were part of the Penn State Child Cohort. The researchers conducted sleep testing on them and had the parents report whether their children had any excessive daytime sleepiness. Then, they divided the children up into two groups: One that had the excessive daytime sleepiness, and one that didn't.

The researchers found that excessive daytime sleepiness was linked with "neurobehavioral (learning, attention/hyperactivity, conduct) problems and poorer performance in processing speed and working memory," researchers wrote in the study.

Rather, researchers found that factors like depression or anxiety, inattention, obesity, asthma and trouble falling asleep were linked with excessive daytime sleepiness in the kids (even those who "got enough sleep" during the sleep testing, and didn't have sleep apnea).

Excessive daytime sleepiness can be caused by a number of factors, including not getting enough sleep at night, sleep apnea, medications, and other mental conditions or sleep disorders, according to a 2009 article in the journal American Family Physician.

Recently, a New York Times article also examined the link between sleep and attention problems at school. That article looked specifically at how some cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might actually be a sign of sleep apnea, which leads to sleep deprivation and, then, problems with focusing and attention.

The New York Times reported on a recent Pediatrics journal article, showing that kids with sleep problems -- such as sleep apnea or snoring -- have a 40 to 100 percent increased risk of ADHD-like behavioral problems.

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Filed by Amanda L. Chan