The link between sleep apnea and brain activity

Research shows that sleep apnea in children affects both brain activity and IQ.

According to research, sleep apnea can lead to a number of issues, including brain cell damage, which lowers IQ and brain activity in children. If left untreated, the condition can actually injure areas of the brain that are responsible for processes like learning and memory. Read on to find out more about the connection between sleep apnea and your child’s IQ…

What does research reveal?

Researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore used brain imaging technology to show that severe sleep apnea can cause damage to certain areas of the brain. Children with untreated and severe cases of sleep apnea who participated in the study scored lower on standardized tests than those without a sleep disorder. These findings highlight the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

How was IQ measured?

Although sleep apnea tends to be less common in children than in adults, there are a significant number of cases that go undiagnosed. Researchers conducted brain imaging studies on children — both with severe sleep apnea, and those without the condition. They also performed IQ tests and other standardized tests designed to measure factors like memory, learning skills and verbal performance.

According to the researchers, the average IQ score in the children who had been diagnosed with sleep apnea was in the low-normal range and was 16 points lower in children without the condition. The children with sleep apnea also scored lower overall on the other performance tests, while the brain imaging studies showed decreased brain activity in those with sleep apnea. Regions of the brain with decreased activity included the areas associated with learning and memory, namely the frontal cortex, the cerebellum, and the hippocampus.

Why is this research significant?

The findings of this research highlight the importance of diagnosing and treating sleep breathing issues in young children as soon as possible. Early treatment can be very effective in improving the quality of children’s sleep as well as their overall development and health.

What is the solution?

If you suspect that your child might have obstructive sleep apnea or another airway concern, we recommend that you bring them in for a consultation. At Elite Dental of Staten Island, we understand the importance of treating airway conditions in order to promote the total wellness of our patients. An unrestricted airway is essential for carrying oxygen to the cells in the body to promote a healthy body and brain function.

As a starting point, we suggest that you take the children’s airway questionnaire to check if your child’s behaviour could be linked to an airway restriction. If your child qualifies for treatment, one of the Elite Dental team members will contact you as soon as possible to arrange an appointment.

To find out more about children’s airway concerns and what causes them, please take a look here.

To get in touch with one of our experienced team members, please contact us here.


In honor of Children's Dental Health Month, we're hosting an exciting event about myofunctional therapy, and how your child's breathing could affect their health for the rest of their life. This event will take place at our office on Monday February 26 from 4.30pm
Thanks to environmental changes, children are now being born, and growing up to adulthood with malformed airways and jaws.
Get more information about myofunctional therapy
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Thanks to environmental changes, children are now being born, and growing up to adulthood with malformed airways and jaws.
Get more information about myofunctional therapy
for your child
Learn how you can help your child!
Check your inbox for an email from us!