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Sleep, cognitive, and socio-emotional development in preterm children during middle and late childhood
Third-party funded project
Project title Sleep, cognitive, and socio-emotional development in preterm children during middle and late childhood
Principal Investigator(s) Lemola, Sakari
Co-Investigator(s) Hagmann-von Arx, Priska
Brand, Serge
Holsboer-Trachsler, Edith
Grob, Alexander
Weber, Peter
Project Members Perkinson-Gloor, Nadine
Organisation / Research unit Departement Psychologie / Entwicklungs- und Persönlichkeitspsychologie (Grob),
Departement Psychologie / Persönlichkeits- und Entwicklungspsychologie (Lemola)
Project start 01.10.2012
Probable end 30.09.2014
Status Completed
Abstract Background of the Study Preterm birth has become more frequent during the last three decades: The number of children born at a birth weight of <1500g has more than doubled since the late 1970s. Reasons for this development are the progress in reproductive medicine, more frequent indicated preterm births due to maternal illnesses, and increasing maternal age. Moreover, survival rates of the very preterm children have increased dramatically due to improved methods of neonatal care. Although the large majority of prematurely born children are generally healthy when entering school age, they remain at increased risk for cognitive delay, school-, and socio-emotional problems. In a related vein, preterm children also more often show sleep disturbances, particularly breathing problems, which parents can easily identify as snoring. There is a large body of evidence that sleep disturbances in childhood (and in particular breathing problems during sleep) are important for healthy cognitive and socio-emotional development. The present study investigates the role of sleep and breathing problems for cognitive, behavioral, and socio-emotional development in school age children born very preterm (25th to 31st gestational week) and in a comparison group of children born at term. Research Methods Approximately 60 preterm children and 60 term born children aged between 6 and 10 years are studied repeatedly with portable polysomnography (PSG) at their homes. The children are allowed to sleep in their own beds while wearing a PSG-recorder for one night. The PSG-recorder measures the electrical activity of the brain during sleep. Based on the recorded brain waves it is possible to find out the children’s sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep depth (amount of light sleep, deep (or slow wave) sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep). Deep sleep and REM sleep are well known to play a role in consolidation of memory traces and emotional processing and therefore contribute to good cognitive and socio-emotional adjustment when the children are awake. Furthermore, tests of cognitive and socio-emotional development are conducted at the children’s homes, while the mothers and fathers complete questionnaires on the children’s typical behavior and sleep habits. Relevance and Impact of the Study The study will provide information on the role of sleep for development in preterm and term born children. Interventions addressing sleep in preterm children will profit from the generated evidence.
Keywords sleep, sleep apnea, breathing problem, EEG, cognitive development, intelligence, attention, memory, socio-emotional development, emotional problems, behavior problems, preterm, prematurity, premature, childhood, stress axis, HPA-Axis, cortisol
Financed by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

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