Many children with special needs have difficult sleeping well through the night. For a child with Trisomy 21, it is not uncommon for them to deal with a number of issues nightly:
- Difficulty falling asleep (takes a long time)
- Restlessness, lots of tossing and turning
- Wakes up frequently at night
- Needs help falling asleep
- Light or fragmented sleep
- Early mornings
- Mouth breathing, apnea episodes at night
- …and more
Even just struggling with one or two of the issues on this list can greatly affect sleep quality. Children with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome, will often struggle with any of the following:
- Concentration in school or therapy sessions
- Daytime exhaustion
- Lack of physical stamina
- Sensory overload symptoms
Any combination of these issues can be straining for the whole family. Chances are if your child with Trisomy 21 is not sleeping well, you as parents are not resting easy, either. As your child’s primary caretaker, it’s vital that you’re getting the 7-9 hours of sleep you need. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.
Many families worry if their child is not getting the quality sleep they should be, that this will affect their child’s development. And, it can! The brain works overtime at night to make sure it’s a well oiled machine. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain, heart issues, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. It can start to become a real snowball effect as sleep debt and health issues build up.
I am sure you’ve been told that your child’s sleep issues cannot be fixed. It’s most likely tied to their genetic mutation, and it cannot be resolved completely. Doctors and specialists usually do not have much to recommend in ways of resolving sleep issues.
However, the great news is that you can make lasting changes in your child’s sleep quality.
If you’re not sure where to start, making sure that you’re covering your bases with screen time, diet, routine and more is a great first step. They seem so simple, but they can make a huge impact if done consistently. These alone have helped many families turn their child’s sleep around!
For your child with Trisomy 21, physical activity is vital for their sleep quality. If you suspect that your child as any breathing problems at night, getting them out and exercising is a great and natural way to start resolving the issue. Your child’s lungs need to work out during the day — go for walks, runs, hikes, walk stairs, etc. If your child is not quite that mobile yet, getting tons of time of the floor is key. The more “physical fit” your child’s respiratory system is, the better it will function at night.
Getting a child to sleep better is not a sprint, it’s a marathon! It may take a few weeks, but the hard work pays off. Dozens and dozens of parents I have worked with have successfully taught their children to sleep great through the night. The road may seem uncertain, or you may not know where to turn first. And, that’s okay! That’s what I am here for.
Lasting and holistic changes are possible for your child with Down syndrome.