Sleep problems and associated comorbidities among adults with Down syndrome*

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BackgroundSleep problems, including sleep apnoea and behavioural sleep disturbances, are common among adults with Down syndrome (DS). Despite a preliminary understanding of potential medical and behavioural comorbidities of these sleep problems among children with DS, little is known about comorbid conditions associated with these sleep problems among adults with DS. Understanding causes and sequelae of sleep problems in this ageing population is essential to providing quality health screening and treatment. The current study examines the physical health problems, mental health conditions, functional abilities and behavioural problems associated with sleep apnoea and behavioural sleep disturbances among adults with DS.MethodFamily caregivers participated in clinical interviews and completed questionnaires, providing reports regarding 75 adults with DS. Caregivers reported on sleep problems, physical and mental health conditions, daily living skills and behaviours regarding their ageing family member with DS.ResultsSleep apnoea was associated with more common other respiratory concerns, and more frequent visits to physicians, but not with some expected medical comorbidities (cardiac). Behavioural sleep disturbances (delayed sleep onset, night-time awakenings and morning awakenings) were associated with poorer health, more frequent overnight hospital and emergency department visits, more common cardiac conditions, less common thyroid condition, more common mental health conditions (anxiety, depression and dementia) and a higher rate of daytime behaviour problems.ConclusionThe study findings suggest that there are differential correlates for the various sleep problems in adults with DS, which warrant attention when screening for medical and mental health comorbidities, assessing behavioural problems and in treatment planning for ageing adults with DS.

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