Sleep characteristics in children with Down syndrome

J Pediatr. 1999 Jun;134(6):755-60. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(99)70293-3.


Background: Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is common in children with Down syndrome (DS). Little is known about sleep patterns, especially arousals, awakenings, and movements during sleep in children with DS.

Objective: To determine the characteristics of sleep disorders in children with DS and to define the associations between respiratory disturbance and arousals, awakenings, and movements.

Methods: The study included 23 children with DS, compared with 13 children with primary snoring. All underwent a 6- to 8-hour sleep study.

Results: The respiratory disturbance index was significantly higher in the children with DS (2.8 +/- 2.3 events/h vs 0.6 +/- 0.4 events/h; P <.05). Sleep was significantly fragmented in children with DS, who had a significantly higher arousal/awakening (A/Aw) index (24.6 +/- 7.9 events/h) compared with the comparison group (17.6 +/- 4.0 events/h) (P <.02). A higher percentage of jerks associated with A/Aw and respiratory event-associated A/Aw was observed in patients with DS (45.2% +/- 25% and 8.6% +/- 6.4%, respectively) compared with the control patients (10.2% +/- 4.5% and 1.5% +/- 2.1%) (P <.02). The median length of occurrences of stage 2 sleep was 27% shorter in the DS group (P <.03). The number of shifts from "deeper" to "lighter" stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep was 30% greater (P <.02) in the DS group.

Conclusion: Children with DS have significant sleep fragmentation, manifested by frequent awakenings and arousals, which are only partially related to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Down Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*