Parents and caregivers of children with Down syndrome have a lot of challenges with which to contend. Perhaps one of the most persistent – and, for some, unexpected – is sleep issues. Many individuals with Down syndrome face a variety of sleeping problems throughout their life, and you might find your child struggling to sleep well. Because sleep is such an important part of living a healthy life, this can pose a big problem. Let’s take a closer look at some of the sleeping challenges children with Down syndrome face and what you can do about them.

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Recent research has shown that sleep disorders are more prevalent in individuals with Down syndrome than in the general population. One study in particular found that 76% of the children they followed had sleep problems, all of which began at a fairly young age and some of which persisted into adulthood. One of the most common sleep disorders children with Down syndrome face is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This disorder can make it difficult for people to stay asleep and attain high quality rest. This, in turn, can lead to issues in child development as well as a child’s relationship with their loved ones.

If your child is having trouble sleeping, your first step should be to take them to a physician for a checkup. This is especially important because OSA is so common in children with Down syndrome. Speak with your doctor and be honest with them about the challenges you’re facing – they should be able to recommend a good course of action.

Trouble Falling and Staying Asleep

Another major sleep issue that children with Down syndrome experience is falling and staying asleep. This can be an incredibly frustrating experience for everyone involved. This can be caused by a few different reasons, however often the children find it difficult to wind down from the day. There are few things that can be done to help improve their bedtime and sleep quality.

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First of all, do your best to follow a consistent routine at bedtime. This will help children become accustomed to the idea that sleep is coming. You might want to set aside anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes before your child’s actual bedtime to get them ready to sleep. A relaxing routine is vital for many children with Down syndrome as they prepare to rest. That means avoiding computers and televisions before bed, creating a peaceful environment that promotes sleep, and avoiding caffeine and other stimulants at night. Finally, you might consider investing in a quality mattress that suits your child’s sleeping style. For an issue mostly out of your control, creating and environment conducive for sleep is one step you do have control over.

Dealing with sleeping issues in children with Down syndrome can be a struggle, but they are not insurmountable. Take a look through the information and advice above and try making a checklist of things you can do to make your child’s night a little bit more peaceful. Make sure they see a physician regularly to ensure the issue isn’t one that needs intervention, too.

Written and submitted by Lisa Smalls
“Lisa is a freelance writer for North Carolina. Growing up, and sharing a room, with her brother who had down syndrome gave her an appreciation for the sleep challenges children with down syndrome and their families face. Now, she loves to educate on the topic through her writing.”