Down's Syndrome Scotland - Learning Resources

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing.

People with Down’s Syndrome’s physical and physiological characteristics place them at higher risk of OSA e.g. obesity, thick neck, midface hypoplasia, or a large tongue

Approximately 50% of adults with Down’s Syndrome are affected by obstructive sleep apnoea.

There are two types of breathing interruption characteristic of OSA:

Apnoea – where the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse sufficiently to cause a total blockage of the airway; and the airflow is blocked for 10 seconds or more

Hypopnoea – a partial blockage of the airway that results in an airflow reduction of greater than 50% for 10 seconds or more.

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    Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is usually diagnosed after observed sleep studies at a sleep clinic, or by using a testing device worn overnight at home

    Treatment Options

    • Lifestyle changes such as weight loss or stop smoking
    • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
    • Mandibular advancement device (MAD)
    • Surgery


    Key Point

    Changes in mood, behaviour or abilities may be associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA).The signs and symptoms of OSA may easily be overlooked or misattributed to other disorders if not enquired about specifically.


    Quick Quiz

    What can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea?

    Noisy and laboured breathing
    Restless Leg Syndrome
    Peaceful sleep

    What can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea?

    Peaceful night's sleep
    More energy
    Irritability and mood swings