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How bad sleep harms the brain

Thursday April 16th, 2015

Children with sleeping problems suffer from loss of memory, researchers warned today.

Hungarian researchers say that poor sleep affects declarative memory - the conscious recall of events.

They were due to report their findings at a European conference, warning the effects could hamper children's ability to learn.

The findings come from a study of 17 children, reported to the Sleep and Breathing Conference of the European Respiratory Society.

Researcher Dezso Nemeth, from the University of Szeged and Eötvös Loránd University, said: “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. If these findings are confirmed in larger studies, we can tailor the training and rehabilitation therapies we provide to children with sleep disordered breathing by focusing on improving the conscious memory processes.”

* A second study today links poor quality sleep in adults to loss of brain-power at an early age.

Researchers in New York, USA, studied some 2,470 people over the age of 55 for their research, published in the journal Neurology.

They found that people with sleep breathing problems, such as apnoea and heavy snoring, showed signs of loss of memory and thinking power ten years earlier than others.

Those developing Alzheimer's disease were diagnosed five years earlier than others.

Researcher Dr Ricardo Osorio, of the NYU Langone Medical Center, reports that treatment with continuous positive airway pressure machines helped delay these problems by ten years.

He said: “Given that so many older adults have sleep breathing problems, these results are exciting—we need to examine whether using continuous positive airway pressure could possibly help prevent or delay memory and thinking problems.”

Neurology 16 April 2015

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Child Health | Europe | General Health | North America

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