How Sleep Problems Affect Your Child’s Speech Problems –

Unlike adults, children need more than nine hours of sleep every night. Longer sleeping hours are needed for the regeneration of neurons in the brain’s cerebral cortex. When learning, this area of the brain is active. Activity is reduced in the cerebral cortex if a child suffers from sleep deprivation. As a result, children may mispronounce words and struggle to find the right words.

How do sleep problems contribute to speech problems in kids? Let us find out.

Impairs Speech Processing

Loss of sleep can cause a delay in children’s ability to process speech. A study by Buckhalt, Ph. D. showed how decreasing children’s sleep can hinder speech processing.

A speech perception task required children to identify the beginning sounds of syllables. While performing a task, electrodes on the scalp-recorded electrical activity in five areas of the brain related to speech and language. There were significant differences found in these areas. Sleep-deprived children showed slower response rates. A reduction in sleep time, even for an hour, weakens a child’s ability to process speech.

Affects Speech Perception

Sleep loss can make children mispronounce words. Sleep deprivation alters the first stages of cognitive functioning in children. Research from the University of Louisville discovered that even mild sleep loss in school-age children produces deficits in their cognitive development and functioning.

A test was conducted on 32 children ranging from six to seven years of age to measure their neurocognitive development. These children listened to computer-generated speech syllables such as /ba/, /da/ and /ga/. Results showed that children who did not get a sufficient amount of sleep failed to phonetically code the speech sounds.

If a child is sleep-deprived, it alters his speech perception. Consequently, the child struggles to make certain sounds correctly.

Triggers Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is more common in adults, but it also occurs in children. It is a chronic sleep disorder that is often characterized by sudden attacks of sleep or overwhelming daytime drowsiness.

If children suffer from narcolepsy, they will experience a sudden loss of muscle tone. A study published in Sleep Review: The Journal for Sleep Specialists showed that narcolepsy can result in lapses in speech or the usage of irrelevant words or phrases. Reduced muscle tone can lead to slurred speech.

Narcoleptic children tend to suffer from slurred speech as well due to loss of muscle tone.

Promotes Apraxia

Sleep disorders contribute to the development of apraxia in children. Apraxia is defined as a type of motor speech disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce speech.

A study by Caspari, Strand, Kotagal, and Berggvist discovered the association between apraxia and obstructive sleep apnea. A 6-year-old nonverbal child, who experienced seizures and severe apraxia of speech, got treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). After the procedure, he experienced a significant reduction in seizures and rapid growth in functional speech production. The study establishes the importance of definitive diagnosis and early and more aggressive treatment of (OSA) for children to improve motor speech disorders.

The improvement in functional speech production shows how sleep disorders may play a role in the development of speech problems in kids.

Prompts Stuttering

One of the consequences of sleep apnea is stuttering. A study by the University of California revealed that 40% of patients with sleep apnea suffered from sleep disorders since childhood. The  MRI scans of the stuttering patients illustrated loss of brain tissues due to sleep apnea. The tissue loss occurred primarily in the regions that control speech production, contributing to speech impairments like stuttering since childhood. Sleep apnea damages regions of the brain that regulates breathing and speech, causing children to stutter.