A researcher at Coventry University wants to recruit young children who snore or who have Down’s syndrome for a new study exploring the effect that disruptive sleep has on early years learning.
Dr Anna Joyce from the University’s Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement is seeking children aged two to four years old who are typically developing and snore, or who have Down’s syndrome, to take part in the study.
Parents and carers interested in participating with their children will be invited to attend a session lasting around an hour and a half at Coventry University or the UCL Institute of Education in London (whichever is most convenient for them) where their young ones will play games that will test their motor, visual and language skills.
Parents will also be shown how to use specialist equipment to monitor their child’s breathing during sleep, which they will then take home with them. After recording a night of sleep, they will return the equipment to Dr Joyce, who will assess whether breathing difficulties are apparent. Volunteers will be given a £40 shopping voucher in return for their taking part in the study.
As a psychological scientist specialising in sleep problems and how they affect people’s lives, Dr Joyce is keen to gain further insight into how disruptive sleeping patterns – particularly those related to breathing difficulties – contribute to delays in early cognitive abilities.
Breathing issues experienced during bedtime, like heavy snoring or gasping for air, may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS), which is a disorder where the airway becomes blocked during sleep. For a number of reasons, such as low muscle tone and narrow airways, OSAS is particularly common in people with Down’s syndrome.
Although scientists know that OSAS is a particular culprit for causing cognitive difficulties in typically developing individuals, there is barely any research looking at people with Down’s syndrome, which is where Dr Joyce’s project comes in.
Dr Anna Joyce explained:
“Sleep is a vital process that supports a number of physical and psychological functions. We all need good sleep to perform at our best and those with sleep problems find it more difficult to learn, pay attention and remember things — so it’s not surprising that any child with poor sleep will do worse than their classmates at school.
“What’s more, those with neurodevelopmental disorders like Down’s syndrome often have sleep problems – actually around six in ten people with the condition experience some kind of difficulty sleeping – and this could be partly responsible for some of their other cognitive and behavioural difficulties.
“My research aims to help in a very practical way by improving education and quality of life for these children and their families. I’m determined get the message across to health services that all children should be screened and treated for sleep problems so that they have the best chance to be healthy and happy. “
Volunteers wishing to take part in Dr Joyce’s research should contact her on 024 7765 9509 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants need to attend Coventry University or UCL Institute of Education for one session between now and July 2016 when testing will be taking place, and will need to be able to return the equipment that they will be using at home within one week.