For many parents, one of their primary goals is to raise an intelligent child who is equipped to handle the world around them. Parents spend billions of dollars on toys that are supposed to teach kids and raise their IQs -$1.7 billion of so-called edutainment toys were sold in 2006 - while neglecting one of the simplest things that they can do to help their kids succeed. Parents need to spend less on fancy toys that haven't been shown to make a difference and focus in on making sure that their kids get a good night's sleep. In fact, research performed at the University of Virginia suggests that sleep apnea could have worse effects on a child's developing brain than lead exposure.

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There are two distinct ways that poor sleep tends to negatively affect kids. First, lack of routine can cause kids not to get enough sleep, as parents struggle to get them to bed at a reasonable hour. Second, poor sleep because of sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, OSA, can add up into a sleep debt that kids struggle to compensate for.


Regardless of how kids accumulate their sleep debt, studies have consistently shown that tired kids perform more poorly than their well-rested peers on a battery of tests. From physical performance to paying attention to tasks at hand to retaining information through the restorative process of sleep, kids who aren't sleeping well just don't do as well as kids who are sleeping well.

As a parent, how do you tell the difference between a child who has had an occasional bad night and a child who may have a sleep disorder?

Some warning signs:

  • Persistent snoring; no child should regularly snore when they're healthy.
  • Difficulty going to sleep; there are a number of sleep disorders that cause difficulty acknowledging tiredness and going to sleep.
  • Difficulty waking; while every child will have an occasional morning where they struggle to wake up, they should not regularly have difficulty waking up at their usual time.
  • Night sweats
  • Bedwetting that reappears after six months of dryness
  • Jerking of the body or pauses in breathing during sleep

If your child has other health problems, this can increase their risks of sleep disorders, such as OSA. Autism, Down's Syndrome, obesity, or epilepsy that requires two or more medications to control are all risk factors for serious sleep disorders that may make their other health conditions worse.


If your child has seen their school performance suffer, if they suddenly experience behavior problems or aggressive behavior, or if they regularly seem to be tired during the day, regardless of how many hours that they're in bed, seeing a pediatric sleep specialist for a complete evaluation is a good next step. For any parent who worries about their child's ongoing intelligence, making sure that this is the best way to set them up to a lifetime of success.