Down syndrome is a common genetic disorder caused by an extra complete or partial copy of chromosome 21 due to irregular cell division. Down syndrome is characterized by behavioral and physical characteristics caused by additional chromosomes. Chromosomes are the body’s tiny sets of genetic material. They are fundamental to children’s development in the womb and after birth.
Sleep disturbances are common in children with Down syndrome. These issues can be behavioral or physical in nature, including disruptive sleep apnea. While sleeping, the muscles of the throat restrict or obstruct their air passages, causing a child’s regular breathing to be disturbed.
What Do Experts Say About Sleep Deprivation?
Experts conclude that about 50% of children with Down syndrome have sleep issues. Such issues may be behavioral or physical in nature, such as obstructive sleep apnea. During sleep, the surfaces of the throat loosen and compress or restrict the airway, causing a person’s regular breathing to be disturbed. These kids can suffer from a complicated combination of physical and psychosocial sleep issues.
Sleep is especially tough for children with Down syndrome, whose complications frequently last into adolescence. According to many reports, 76 percent of children with Down syndrome have trouble falling and staying asleep. Children with Down syndrome often experience sleep problems, which may have a negative impact on other phases of their growth in the future. Sleep deprivation in childhood and adolescence, according to studies, may have an extremely damaging impact on student learning ability, performance, and early language development.
Common Sleep Disturbances for Children with Down Syndrome
Disorders of Falling Asleep and Remaining Asleep
- Fragmented sleeping
- Unwillingness to go to bed
- Insisting to sleep with someone
- Waking at night
- Early waking
Symptoms of Breathing Disorders at Night
- Sleep apnea
- Mouth breathing
- Irregular sleeping position
- Loud snoring
Other Behavioral Problems
- Sleep talking
- Night terrors
- Teeth grinding
The Impact of Lack of Sleep in Your Child
Sleep deprivation makes children irritable, despondent, and perhaps more sensitive to mood swings. Research teams in the United Kingdom have discovered that children who have inconsistent sleep schedules are more prone to having behavioral issues.
Substantially reduced sleep time or irregular rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may contribute to insufficient sleep and circadian misalignment. Sleep deprivation, regardless of the cause, reduces cognitive function, impairs efficiency, and hinders one’s health.
Sleep deprivation, both chronic and acute, causes observable effects on cognitive function, alertness, behavioral function, and emotional stability, which are especially noticeable in children. Individual responsiveness to such changes varies and is influenced by a variety of factors such as age, circadian preference, and biological characteristics.
Insufficient sleep has a major impact on a number of physiological activities
- The neurohormones leptin and ghrelin are involved in the control of hunger. Insufficient sleep causes an imbalance of these neurohormones.
- A deficiency in controlling blood glucose levels, which raises the risk of diabetes in children.
- Cardiovascular role management
- Obesity is caused by a combination of these risk factors.
In Quebec, it has been discovered that a lack of sleep is linked to the onset of childhood obesity. Kids whose mother and father are overweight have a far higher risk of being overweight themselves. This may be due to genes or the fact that they picked up unhealthy eating habits from their family members.
Sleep patterns, including eating habits, are closely linked to a family’s style of living, and so many children are found to sleep less than they require. This is significant because insufficient sleep causes hormonal changes that are similar to those linked to an increased risk of health problems like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.
Causes of Sleep Deprivation in Children with Down Syndrome
Sleep apnea, or interrupted breathing while sleeping, is more common in children with Down syndrome. They can groan, choke, cough, and experience feelings of anxiousness, as well as experience odd sleeping patterns, excessive sweating, and intermittent cessation of breathing. A common apnoeic incident occurs when a child ceases breathing for a brief period of time before abruptly restarting breathing with a quick gulping for air. While apnoeic episodes do not impact sleeping time, they detrimentally affect sleep quality.
Sleep apnea causes a frequent decrease in the quantity of oxygen transported throughout the blood, which can have a negative impact on health and growth.
Behavioral insomnia of childhood (BIC) is the most common cause of childhood insomnia, which affects both going to sleep and staying asleep. The kind of BIC linked to nighttime sleep is defined by a child’s reliance on particular stimuli or conditions. The necessity for parental presence when falling asleep, deliberate co-sleeping, or breastfeeding shortly before nighttime sleep are all factors that contribute to a child’s inability to fall asleep on their own.
An unwillingness to go to bed, the delayed onset of sleep, and nighttime movements characterize BIC.
Tips and Treatment for Your Down Syndrome Child
The use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is a popular and effective treatment option. CPAP allows the wearer to sleep with a mask and hose that pumps air into the user’s mouth and nose. The air allows the individual to sleep by clearing the blocked airway.
To ensure that children with Down syndrome use the machine properly, parents or caregivers may need to provide additional assistance and focus. It takes time to become accustomed to the device. A relaxing night requires patience and practice.
Tips to Follow
- At the time of going to sleep, avoid giving your child medication that contains a stimulating effect. Cough syrups and decongestants fall into this category.
- Make a nightly bedtime routine.
- Establish a bedroom devoid of all interruptions.
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- Ensure your children have regular exercise and activities.
- Caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided in the evening.
Having a sleep disorder on top of Down syndrome isn’t easy. Only with good treatment and lifestyle changes can you support your children by reducing DS issues and improving their sleep.