CHRISTCHURCH - Is your toddler snoring? It's actually an alarm bell sounding for their educational development.
A study involving three-year-olds in New Zealand has found those who were persistent snorers performed poorer across a range of tests.
Non-snoring kids were consistently more advanced across the counting, vocabulary, rhyming and naming tests, showing the importance of healthy sleep in early development.
"Snoring is often treated as a bit of a joke but it does need to be taken seriously ... it disrupts sleep," said Dr Barbara Galland, from the University of Otago in Dunedin.
"Plus, if there are breathing problems, the repeated low oxygen levels that come from obstructed airways is believed to combine with disrupted sleep to give these children a poorer start."
Childhood snoring is often be caused by infection, such as tonsillitis.
The research took in 170 children, divided between snorers and non-snorers, and Dr Galland said steps were taken to prevent socio-economic differences across families, and mother's educational level, from skewing the results.
A broader study, taking in more than 830 families, found one in ten New Zealand preschoolers were snorers and they were more common in Maori families, as well as households where there were smokers.
Dr Galland said she expected such a study in Australia would reveal similar results.
"I think you would because it (childhood snoring) is quite well associated with infection, and household crowding, that you might see in your indigenous population as well," she said.
Dr Galland presented the research at the 22nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian Sleep Association and Australasian Sleep Technologists Association conference, in Christchurch.