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Cognitive and behavioral consequences of sleep disorders in children

Judith A Owens, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Ronald D Chervin, MD, MS
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Deficient or inadequate sleep may be caused by reduced total sleep time (decreased quantity), fragmentation of sleep by brief arousals (decreased quality), or mis-timing (circadian dysregulation). Sleep deficiency arising from any cause results in reduced alertness, impaired performance, and compromised health. Acute and chronic sleep deficiency result in measurable changes in cognitive performance, alertness, behavioral function, and emotional regulation, and these effects are particularly apparent in children. Susceptibility to such changes varies among individuals and is based on multiple factors including age, circadian preference, and genetic differences [1]. More recently, the range of sleep durations required by children at different ages was reviewed and summarized [2].

Slow-wave sleep (SWS) appears to be the most "restorative" form of sleep and thus is preferentially preserved in the face of insufficient total sleep. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep also plays fundamental roles, and is involved in cognitive functions such as the consolidation of memory and learning of new tasks. Both forms of sleep appear to play an integral role in the growth and development of the central nervous system.

This topic review will describe the clinical consequences of sleep deficiency and their manifestations in specific sleep disorders including obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia. Other UpToDate topics with related content include:

(See "Assessment of sleep disorders in children".)

(See "Evaluation of suspected obstructive sleep apnea in children".)


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jan 5, 2016.
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