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Down Syndrome

A Reflection of Day and Night: Down Syndrome and Sleep

“But I’m not tired” is a common sentence heard by parents as they attempt to tuck their children into bed after a long day. As your child grows up, this phrase may be heard less and less throughout the years. However, for people with Down Syndrome (DS), there may be little change to no change when it comes to not being tired. Complications from DS can make it difficult to enjoy a quality night of sleep.

Sleep problems have been widely reported in children with DS, with over 85% of school-aged children experiencing clinical symptoms of sleep problems (Lukowski & Milojevich, 2017). In a study conducted by Nicole M. Phillips, MD, from the University of Michigan, children with Down Syndrome have more instances of fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings compared to children who do not possess DS. Children with DS also have lower sleep efficiency, fewer total hours of sleep, less REM sleep, and spend more time in a lighter sleep stage than those without DS. A decrease in the quality and amount of sleep can further impair cognitive, behavioral, and physical growth that is already present in DS children (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2017).

Children with Down Syndrome often suffer from sleep-disordered breathing such as snoring or sleep apnea because of hypotonia, upper airway restriction and the placement of the tongue. They are also more likely to suffer from sleepwalking, sleep anxiety, and insomnia. Sleep-disordered breathing results in multiple brief sleep disruptions or fragmentations that can reduce the restorative function of sleep and, as a result, increase daytime fatigue (Lukowski & Milojevich, 2017). This fatigue impacts a person’s attentiveness and cognitive abilities during the day. The Journal of Intellectual Disability Research reports that a lack of sleep can also lead to a decrease in physical activity which can lead to obesity, a prevalent feature in those with DS (Chen & Ringenbach, 2018).

Although children and infants have an occasional bout of sleeplessness, these issues decline over time. The same cannot be said for children with DS. Complications for those with down syndrome often create restless nights no matter how tired one is.

References:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2017, November 08). Children with Down syndrome sleep poorly, have more fragmented sleep. https://aasm.org/children-with-down-syndrome-sleep-poorly-and-have-more-fragmented-sleep/

Lukowski, A. F., & Milojevich, H. M. (2017). Sleep problems and temperament in young children with Down syndrome and typically developing controls. Journal Of Intellectual Disability Research, 61(3), 221-232. doi:10.1111/jir.12321

Chen, C. J., & Ringenbach, S. R. (2018). Walking performance in adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome: the role of obesity and sleep problems. Journal Of Intellectual Disability Research, 62(4), 339-348. doi:10.1111/jir.12474

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Down Syndrome

Looking Towards the Future: Employment for People with Down Syndrome

Three years ago I began my undergraduate career at a university uncertain about what I wanted to study. My family chastised my indecisiveness and would frequently question me regarding my major and job prospects. A child’s development is a crucial concern for parents. Questions flow through their mind constantly. Will my child be healthy? Will they be happy in the future? Am I doing enough to support them? How are they going to turn out? This can be inherently stressful for parents who have children with down syndrome.

People with down syndrome may possess a number of health complications including heart and gastrointestinal defects, immune disorders, sleep apnea, and obesity. Along with the physical difficulties, those with down syndrome moderate cognitive impairment, language difficulties, and memory issues. In a 2016 survey conducted with 511 adults with down syndrome, it was found that along with high unemployment, a large number of people with down syndrome were limited to working in food, janitorial, landscaping, and office sectors of work (Kumin and Schoenbrodt, 2016).

However, despite the challenges that those with down syndrome face, employment and success are not unattainable. A mother from the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential spoke about her daughter Mila, who has down syndrome. The first few weeks following Mila’s birth was filled with emotional turmoil; doctors diagnosed her with a congenital heart defect. Her mother immediately addressed issues with Mila’s physical and mental development including, treatment for her heart condition, enrolling her in reading programs, exercising with her, and teaching her foreign languages. Despite being five, she is now able to read at the level of an eight-year-old. There are also instances where people with down syndrome who strive on to become business owners, politicians, or entrepreneurs. In January of 2018, a story was done by BBC regarding John Cronin, an entrepreneur possessing down syndrome. Cronin began a business selling socks with a portion of the proceeds going to charities that support those with disabilities.

The future can be daunting for any parent, child, or adult. It is important that we acknowledge that those possessing down syndrome are capable of living fulfilling and enriching lives, despite the physical and mental complications they possess. As Mark Cronin, father of John Cronin stated “, When I talk to employers I tell them it is absolutely imperative that they hire people with disabilities. Not because it’s the right thing to do, not because they’re nice guys, but because everybody is looking for good workers. This is a vast, untapped pool of great workers.”

References:

The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential. (2017, March 7). Down Syndrome Success Story: Mila.  https://www.iahp.org/down-syndrome-success-story-mila/

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Down syndrome. (2018, February 01).https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/down-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20355977

Cheetham, J. (2018, January 13). The million dollar sock entrepreneur with Down’s syndrome. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42353259

Kumin, L., & Schoenbrodt, L. (2016). Employment in Adults with Down Syndrome in the United States: Results from a National Survey. Journal Of Applied Research In Intellectual Disabilities, (4), 330. doi:10.1111/jar.12182