Sleep problems are very common in children with Down syndrome. In fact, the National Down Syndrome Society reports that there’s a 50 to 100 percent risk of sleep apnea in children with Down syndrome.
There are two main causes of sleep problems in children with Down syndrome; physical and external nonphysical.
Sleep problems are very common in children with Down syndrome.. The physical causes include problems like low muscle tone in mouth and upper airway, large tongue, and enlarged tonsils or adenoids. External nonphysical causes can run on to infinity when you have a child with Down syndrome. This post is meant to help parents identify the cause of the sleep difficulty and to select a specific course of action to help their child with Down syndrome overcome the sleep challenges they face so that they can get the sleep they need.
If your child is struggling with sleep, the first step is to determine if the source of their struggle is physical or external. If your child with Down syndrome snores then it’s important to have your child checked out by a doctor. Snoring is never normal in children and is an indicator of a sleep disorder.
2. Rule Out Sleep Apnea
If your child snores, it’s a good idea to go see a sleep doctor who specializes in working with children. It’s even better if the sleep doctor specializes in working with children with Down syndrome. Your doctor can perform a diagnosis and possibly a sleep test to determine if your child has sleep apnea.
3. Stick to a Regular Routine
If your child with Down syndrome does not have sleep apnea, and you have determined that the cause of their sleep disturbance is not physical, then a good place to start is to create a consistent bedtime routine. All children thrive on routine, and a child with Down syndrome is no different. Create a fun, but relaxing bedtime routine that your child can look forward to so that bedtime is not a fight. A clear, consistent schedule of activities leading up to bedtime can also be very beneficial in helping children settle into bed and sleep through the night.
4. Watch What They Eat
If eating or drinking something close to bedtime would impact your sleep, it is also likely to impact how well your child sleeps. Avoiding things like caffeinated beverages or high sugar foods in the evening hours can help children fall asleep naturally.
5. Align Schedules to Natural Rhythms
Everyone, including children with Down syndrome, finds it easier to fall asleep when they go to bed tired. Wherever possible, align the aforementioned routine to the child’s natural rhythm. If they get tired around the same time every night, designate that as bedtime. Sticking to this kind of routine can also help create and maintain your child’s association between bedtime routine activities like reading a story and wearing pajamas with sleeping.
6. Create a Sleep Friendly Environment
If your child is struggling to settle in at night or has trouble staying asleep or waking too early, take a minute to experience their sleep environment in the same way they do. Lay in their bed. Is it comfortable? Is there a cold draft from the window? Is there lots of ambient light? Can you hear things that are happening in other rooms? Creating a calming, comfortable environment that makes your child feel safe and secure while also promoting a good night sleep can make a big difference in managing behavioral problems.
- Everything You Need to Know to Help Children Get a Good Night Sleep (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Children With Down Syndrome at Higher Risk for Sleep Problems (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Teens and Sleep, the Real Story (valleysleepcenter.com)