Monday, 23 March 2015

Prestigious award will enable important research into children who snore.

Dr Sarah Biggs
Improving academic and behavioural problems among children who snore is the aim of new research at MIMR-PHI Institute and the Department of Paediatrics.

Approximately 1 million Australian children have trouble breathing at night which can manifest as simple snoring, right up to severe sleep apnoea where a child stops breathing for short periods of time.

 “Children who snore are at as much risk of cognitive, academic and behavioural problems as children with severe sleep apnoea,” said the Ritchie Centre’s NHMRC Peter Doherty Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Sarah Biggs.

“However, we have no plausible explanation for why this is the case, as children who snore do not experience sleep disruption or oxygen desaturation like children with sleep apnoea.”

Dr Biggs has been awarded a highly competitive US Sleep Research Society (SRS) Foundation Early Career Development Research Award for her project "Identifying pathways for new treatment strategies for children with primary snoring".

The funding of nearly A$100,000 will allow Dr Biggs to carry out home sleep studies and psychological testing in 75 children over the next year.

“My study will separate the behavioural influence on learning from actual learning potential through an assessment method called ‘sleep-dependent learning’” said Dr Biggs.

Dr Biggs’ research involves children learning a task (for example, a list of words or a sequence of movements) just before bed, and then testing how well they retain the information during the night.
“Sleep is essential for memory consolidation so if sleep is disrupted, memory is also disrupted.”

Dr Biggs hopes that her research will provide an understanding of whether the academic problems seen in these children are the result of behaviour problems, rather than their sleep; and will allow for targeted behavioural treatment interventions.

“If children who snore have intact potential to learn, behavioural interventions may help them perform better at school,” added Dr Biggs.

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