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Children with Down Syndrome sleep poorly and have more fragmented sleep

WESTCHESTER, Ill. Children with Down Syndrome sleep poorly, with more fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings compared to typically developing children, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Tuesday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Nicole N. Phillips, MD, of the University of Michigan, focused on 38 children with Down Syndrome, whose sleep study results were identified and matched to those of 38 typically developing children presenting to the Sleep Disorders Center. Children were matched for severity of underlying sleep disordered breathing. The average age of all the children was seven years.

As a whole, children with Down Syndrome spent more time awake after sleep onset and had more fragmented sleep compared to typically developing children. Children with Down Syndrome in the five-to-nine-year year age group exhibited lower sleep efficiency, less total sleep time, spent more time awake after sleep onset, spent more time in a lighter sleep stage (stage 1 sleep), and had less REM sleep compared to typically developing children. Also noted was a trend characterized by less REM sleep and more slow wave sleep with age.

According to Dr. Phillips, the findings of this study suggest that children with Down Syndrome sleep poorly and have more fragmented sleep compared to typically developing children, which may be independent of underlying sleep disordered breathing. Children with Down Syndrome may also have an altered sleep architecture characterized by less total sleep time, more stage 1 sleep, and less REM sleep, said Dr. Phillips, adding that this sleep pattern may emerge during childhood and may reflect a developmental phenotype in this pediatric population. Poor sleep quality and decreased amounts of REM sleep may further impair cognitive, behavioral, and physical growth, noted Dr. Phillips.

A better understanding and enhanced awareness of the sleep characteristics and sleep architecture of children with Down Syndrome will allow earlier detection of impaired sleep and implementation of treatment strategies, said Dr. Phillips. Improving overall sleep quality will be a key ingredient for optimization of physical and cognitive functioning in this pediatric population.

It is recommended that school-aged children get between 10-11 hours of nightly sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers some tips to help your child sleep better:

  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night.

  • Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.

  • Interact with your child at bedtime. Dont let the TV, computer or video games take your place.

  • Keep your children from TV programs, movies, and video games that are not right for their age.

  • Do not let your child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle, or while nursing.

  • At bedtime, do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes chocolate and sodas. Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant at bedtime. This includes cough medicines and decongestants.

It is important to make sure that your child gets enough sleep and sleeps well. The value of sleep can be measured by your childs smiling face, happy nature and natural energy. A tired child may have development or behavior problems. A childs sleep problems can also cause unnecessary stress for you and the other members of your family.

Parents who suspect that their child might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their childs pediatrician or a sleep specialist.


Contact: Kathleen McCann
American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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