In a new study, researchers learned that when parents described a child as presenting with excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), even though clinical tests show them sleeping long enough at night, the child was apt to have a learning, attention or behavioral problem.
Investigators learned that despite little indication of short sleep from traditional measurements, EDS was more likely to occur in children who were experiencing learning, attention/hyperactivity and conduct problems.
Researchers believe a variety of factors contribute to EDS in this cohort. Investigators posit obesity, symptoms of inattention, depression and anxiety, asthma and parent-reported trouble falling asleep were contributory factors to EDS even among children with no signs of diminished sleep time or sleep apnea.
“Impairment due to EDS in cognitive and behavioral functioning can have a serious impact on a child’s development,” said Susan Calhoun, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.
“When children are referred for neurobehavioral problems, they should be assessed for potential risk factors for EDS. Recognizing and treating EDS can offer new strategies to address some of the most common neurobehavioral challenges in young school-age children.”
An important lesson learned from the study was that most of the 500 children studied by Penn State researchers showed few signs of short sleep when tested, nor was short sleep associated with any of the learning, attention and behavior problems. This implies that conventional testing may not capture sleep problems for this population.
Calhoun says that parents and educators are good resources for determining if a child seems excessively sleepy in the daytime and the complaint should be taken seriously.
Fifteen percent of children normally have EDS, although this study suggests the percent is higher among children with learning, attention and behavior problems.