Sleep disturbance is common and can have harmful psychological and physical effects. People with a learning disability are at a particularly high risk. While sleep disturbance in children with Down’s syndrome has received a reasonable amount of attention, relatively little has been written about adults with Down’s syndrome, especially those of an older age.
Types of sleep problems
Virtually all sleep problems which occur in the general population are seen in individuals with Down’s syndrome and other learning disabilities. There are no sleep problems which are specific to such individuals. However, people with Down’s syndrome may be particularly prone to certain types of sleep disturbance.
Some sleep problems have a physical cause, others have a behavioural or psychological basis. Possible sleep problems in adults with Down’s syndrome include insomnia and behavioral or psychological sleep problems, sleep disordered breathing (especially obstructive sleep apnoea or OSA) and parasomnias (unusual behaviours during sleep).
The limited amount of research that has already been conducted on adults with Down’s syndrome has tended to focus on a fairly limited number of sleep problems. High rates of sleep disordered breathing, especially OSA, are reported in adults with Down’s syndrome, but other sleep disorders tend to have been ignored or are referred to only vaguely. It is important to obtain information on the wide range of possible sleep problems to have a better understanding of the area.
New research study
With these issues in mind, we are carrying out a new research study on sleep in adults with Down’s syndrome. This research aims to:
- Describe the range of sleep disorders in adults with Down’s syndrome and how common they are from the perspective of family carers;
- Explore associations between sleep disorders and general health and wellbeing;
- Explore the experiences of family carers in dealing with sleep disorders; and
- Obtain information from adults with Down’s syndrome themselves about their sleep.
Awaiting summary of findings
If you have any questions, please contact:
Dr Rebecca Stores
School of Health Sciences and Social Work (SHSSW)
University of Portsmouth
Tel: 023 9284 4425
Rebecca Stores is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Health Sciences and Social Work at the University of Portsmouth. She has carried out previous research on sleep disorders and psychological functioning in specific groups including children with Down’s syndrome and other forms of learning disability.