Amy M. Sutton

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Roger O. Weed - Chair

Second Advisor

JoAnna White

Third Advisor

William Hamilton

Fourth Advisor

Gregory Brack


The purpose of the study was to investigate whether sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) impairs executive functioning in children. Additionally, the study sought to identify the executive functions at risk in SDB and the contribution of daytime sleepiness. SDB represents a spectrum of upper airway conditions that can be mild, such as snoring, or severe, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Children with these problems may present with excessive sleepiness, failure to thrive, and a variety of cognitive and behavioral dysfunctions including impaired executive functioning. Beebe and Gozal (2002) developed a theoretical model to explain the impact of sleepiness and hypoxia on executive functioning. This model provided a framework to examine links between the medical disorder and the neuropsychological consequences. Twenty-seven children with suspected SDB were tested with polysomnography (PSG) and a neuropsychological battery. Parents completed subjective measures of cognitive function and sleep symptoms. The children were ages 8 to 18 and had no congenital or acquired brain damage. They were matched for age and gender with 21 healthy controls. The executive function protocol included subtests from the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS), the digit span subtest from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV), the Tower of London-II-Drexel University (TOL-II), the Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF), and the Conners’ Continuous Performance Test (CPT-II). Statistical analysis was performed using 2 statistical software packages, SAS and NCSS. Regression analysis was used to evaluate all variables. Due to significant group differences in socio-economic status (SES), SES was included as a covariate, along with IQ. No group differences in IQ were found. Significantly less robust executive function in children with SDB was identified in the domains of cognitive flexibility and impulsivity. Additionally, poorer executive planning and overall inattentiveness was also associated with SDB. Level of significance was set at 0.05 and trends (0.05 < p < 0.10) were acknowledged. Other areas of executive function, including working memory, behavioral and emotional inhibition, and processing speed were not associated with SDB. Moreover, academic functioning was significantly lower in children with SDB, although the differences can be shared equally with SDB, SES and IQ.