Many children who have a diagnosis of Down's Syndrome also struggle with attention difficulties, poor sleep, and other physical conditions. Not all parents are aware, however, that a huge number of kids, some studies estimate as much as 95% with Down's Syndrome, also experience obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

Obstructive sleep apnea in kids with Down's Syndrome is due to a relatively large tongue, small airway due to underdevelopment of their facial bones and decreased muscle tone. In fact, according to the National Down Syndrome Society, 60% of kids with Down's Syndrome have an irregular sleep study by the time they're 4 years old.

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OSA is a sleep disorder where the airway is not maintained during sleep. The patient has multiple pauses in their breathing, which wake them slightly before they fall back asleep. This leads to poor rest, no matter how many hours the sleeper spends in bed.

Sometimes, parents and therapists forget to consider sleep as an effect on their kids. They may see signs of ADHD, poor communication, or lack of focus, when what's actually happening is that the child isn't getting enough quality rest to be able to go on with their day to the best of their ability.


What are some signs of OSA that parents should look for in their kids? 

•    Regular snoring; no child should snore on a nightly basis
•    Night sweats
•    Bedwetting after at least six months of dryness
•    Drop in behavior or school performance
•    Aggressive or frustrated mood on a consistent basis
•    Pauses during sleep
•    Regular signs of tiredness during the day

OSA is dangerous to most of the population, given that it increases blood pressure, has been shown to contribute to specific types of heart disease, but due to the congenital risks of heart defects in kids with Down's Syndrome, OSA is particularly dangerous to this group. 


If these signs seem familiar, it's a good idea to get a complete sleep evaluation with a pediatric sleep specialist. You will be setting your child up for a lifetime of good help and good sleep. By making sure they're well rested, you will improve their help, increase their learning, increase their level of functioning and help them be ready to face the world, every day.