The relationship between sleep and working memory in children with neurological conditions

M.A. A. McCann, Donna Bayliss, Carmela F. Pestell, C.M. M. Hill, Romola S. Bucks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this study is to investigate whether sleep problems might account for the increased working memory deficits observed in school-aged children with neurological conditions. A novel, transdiagnostic approach to the investigation was chosen, and sleep is treated as a process that can potentially account for working memory difficulties across a range of neurological conditions. Prevalence estimates of sleep problems are also examined. Archival data of 237 children aged 6 to 11 years were collected from a Western Australian statewide neuropsychological service for the period 26 July 2011 to 14 January 2014. Measures of parent-reported sleep quality, snoring, and daytime sleepiness were obtained, in addition to objective measures of verbal and spatial working memory, storage capacity, and processing speed. The results of the data analysis reveal that over one third of participants reported having clinically-significant levels of sleep problems and that poor sleep quality is significantly associated with verbal working memory difficulties. This association remains after partialling out the variance contributed to performance by storage capacity and processing speed, suggesting that sleep is impacting upon an executive component of working memory. No other significant associations are observed. The results suggest that poor sleep quality is associated with an executive component of verbal (rather than spatial) working memory in children with neurological conditions. This has implications for the biological mechanisms thought to underlie the relationship between sleep and cognition in children. The results also demonstrate the clinical utility of a transdiagnostic approach when investigating sleep and cognition in children with neurological conditions. © 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-321
Number of pages18
JournalChild Neuropsychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018


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