Q: My 6 year old (with Down syndrome) snores loudly. He is a restless sleeper, but otherwise healthy. Do I need to worry?
A: Snoring in any child is never normal. Snoring is the major symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. Another symptom is restless sleep and sweating at night. Some studies suggest that obstructive sleep apnea occurs far more commonly in children with Down syndrome, perhaps as high as 50%. These symptoms alone do not make the diagnosis of sleep apnea; however, this is very suspicious. Without treatment, obstructive sleep apnea may result in increased learning difficulties, behavior problems, and may eventually cause pulmonary hypertension and heart failure. It is important to discuss these symptoms with your pediatrician or family physician. Removing tonsils and adenoids will often improve these symptoms, but children with Down syndrome may require more investigation of the problem (such as a sleep study) and possibly treatment with CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure).
Deborah C. Givan, M.D.
Director of Apnea & Sleep Disorder Center
Riley Hospital for Children
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
Indiana University School of Medicine