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Atypical Sleep Tied to Language Skills in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Nighttime sleep duration predicted receptive vocabulary size in Down syndrome, Williams syndrome

TUESDAY, Feb. 4, 2020 (HealthDay News) — In children with fragile X syndrome (FXS), Down syndrome (DS), and Williams syndrome (WS), disrupted sleep may adversely affect language development, according to a study published in the February issue of Research in Developmental Disabilities.

Dean D’Souza, M.D., from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and colleagues collected sleep and vocabulary size data from 75 infants and toddlers with DS, FXS, or WS and compared them to data from 30 typically developing children of the same age.

The researchers found that the duration of nighttime sleep, but not daytime naps, was atypical in children with DS/FXS/WS. At night, infants with DS/FXS/WS slept less and were awake longer than the control group; children with neurodevelopmental disorders slept an average of about 50 minutes less than typically developing children at night. In addition, the investigators report that nighttime sleep duration was predictive of receptive vocabulary size in children with DS and WS. Children with WS and DS increased language comprehension by one word for every two minutes of sleep time. The sample size prevented comprehension analysis in children with FXS.

“Our research demonstrates that sleep is disrupted very early in development across various neurodevelopmental disorders, and the indications are that this is contributing to difficulties with learning language,” D’Souza said in a statement. “Further research is needed to explore whether early interventions to improve the sleeping patterns of children with Down’s syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Williams syndrome would be as beneficial for their language skills as interventions later in their development that specifically target language learning.”

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