Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Down’s Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a disorder which affects human cellular parts known as chromosomes. In people with Down Syndrome, there is an extra copy of the twenty-first chromosome. This difference results in low muscle tone at birth, when it’s usually diagnosed, and a variety of mental and physical disabilities into adulthood. In particular, children and adults with Down Syndrome are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, a disorder which results in periods without breath during the night.

Sleep Apnea and Down Syndrome

People with Down Syndrome are at an increased risk for developing sleep apnea due to a variety of mostly physical factors. Because they often have poor muscle tone, people with Down Syndrome often have a difficult time controlling their tongues and soft palates, especially when sleeping. This inability to control the soft palate and tongue leads to obstructive sleep apnea as the person’s airway is blocked during the night. Similarly, those with Down Syndrome may also have enlarged tonsils and adenoids which can also contribute to narrowed airways.

Those with Down Syndrome are also likely to be overweight, adding extra pressure to their chests and neck, another risk factor for sleep apnea. Along with excess secretion and mucous production, it’s easy to see why sleep apnea is such a common experience in those with Down Syndrome.

What Are the Effects of Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a dangerous medical condition which, when left untreated, may lead to life threatening cardiovascular disease, memory loss, and diabetes. Those suffering from Down Syndrome are especially vulnerable to these conditions, especially cardiovascular disease. Because Down Syndrome correlates strongly with congenital heart disease, treatment of sleep apnea is critical.

Treatment of Sleep Apnea in Down Syndrome

Depending on the cause of sleep apnea, treatment is varied. Generally, if tonsils and adenoids are present, the primary care physician will evaluate whether or not the removal of these would improve symptoms. Weight loss may also be suggested. Most care providers will also prescribe continuous positive airway therapy, also known as CPAP therapy. A CPAP machine delivers pressured air through a mask that connects to the head while sleeping. This is the standard and most effective form of treatment for sleep apnea.

If someone you love has Down Syndrome and has recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, it’s important to initiate treatment as soon as possible. Visit us at Advanced Sleep Therapy for questions on treatment or if you suspect someone you know may be suffering. Purchase your sleep apnea supplies from a reputable online CPAP supply store like Breatheeasycpap.com. There, you’ll find a team of specialists ready to help find the perfect CPAP options for you or your loved ones.