According to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, there are about 45,000 people in Canada who have Down syndrome. Occurring in about one in every 700 pregnancies, Down syndrome appears when there is a full or partial copy of chromosome 21, resulting in three pairs instead of the usual two. Research suggests that the occurrence rate increases for mothers over the age of 35, but other than age there is no evidence that Down syndrome occurs due to environmental factors or parental activities before birth, and also does not appear to be hereditary. Since many people these days are waiting until later in life to conceive, it’s expected that the number of Down syndrome births will increase.
Down syndrome generally results in mild to moderate cognitive or intellectual disabilities. People with Down syndrome may be slower to achieve developmental goals, but have shown they are capable of meeting many milestones with additional time and assistance.
Due to advances in medical treatment, those with Down syndrome are living longer and longer, with many reaching age 60 and above, living on their own and gainfully employed, getting married, and having families. Only 100 years ago the average life span for a person with Down syndrome was just nine years. Corrective heart surgeries are pivotal for this improvement, as stated by the U.S. National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). But in order to get there, health and well-being has to be a priority.
Down Syndrome and Sleep Patterns
Down syndrome and sleep difficulties are very common. A TUCK: Advancing Better Sleep report refers to a 2008 study which states that, “Children with Down syndrome sleep poorly, with more fragmented sleep and frequent awakenings compared to typically developing children.” They tend to spend less time getting proper restorative rest and experience anxiety around bedtime. Approximately two-thirds of children with Down syndrome end up sleeping with their parents, with about 40% waking up at least once during the night.
Hippo Hug weighted blankets may be an option for assisting with Down syndrome and sleep difficulties. Our custom, Made in Canada weighted blankets work by applying deep pressure touch stimulation, which provides both physical and psychological benefits. Often likened to a warm hug from a loved one, deep pressure touch stimulation produces a relaxing and calming feeling. Deep pressure touch stimulation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, causing the release of dopamine and serotonin, which soothes, comforts and reassures. Weighted blankets have also been shown to boost the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep processes.
Basically, weighted blankets help to relax and reassure the user, which leads to better, longer, deeper sleep. They have been shown to help with many conditions, and our Try Before You Buy blanket program allows you to try a blanket before making a purchase so you can feel confident you are making a good choice.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Down Syndrome
One rather startling statistic that the TUCK institute presents is the rate of obstructive sleep apnea in 50 to 75% of people with Down syndrome, with almost 60% presenting with abnormal sleep patterns by the age of three and a half years, according to the NDSS Sleep apnea is when people breathe poorly, or stop breathing altogether when sleeping. Poor sleep results in lowered cognitive abilities, behavioural problems, a reduction in growth rates, an inability to concentrate, and many more detrimental states of being. It can also be very dangerous. In some cases, those with sleep apnea have gone to sleep and simply not woken up.
It is suggested that parents with children with Down syndrome should pay close attention to sleep patterns, as often these can go undetected or undiagnosed. A non-invasive continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine can assist with the provision of oxygen.
It may seem counter-intuitive that a weighted blanket may assist with sleep apnea and those with Down syndrome, as the thought may be that the added pressure will restrict breathing. But the opposite may actually be the case, according to the article, “Science Says Weighted Blankets Could Be the Solution to America’s Sleep Problems,” published by Indiana University.
As weighted blankets help with relaxation, they can actually make breathing much easier. The article observes that the extra weight seems to relax the respiratory system, evening out breathing and allowing for better sleep.
We highly recommend speaking to your family doctor before trying a weighted blanket for Down syndrome and sleep enhancements. Not only can they make the proper assessment as to whether a weighted blanket might be helpful, they can also provide a doctor’s note that may allow us to assist in getting your blanket covered by benefits or a third party. As all of our blankets are completely custom-made, we can distribute the weights in a manner that is most helpful. We could reduce the amount of weight in the chest area if that is what is suggested.
Understanding Down Syndrome Vernacular
Down syndrome societies have been working hard increase public knowledge about the condition. It is not a disease and should not be treated as such. They are people first, who “have” Down syndrome, but who do not “suffer” from it. It is also common to refer to the syndrome as “Down’s,” however that is not quite correct. The condition was characterized by English physician John Langdon Down, but he did not have the syndrome himself, as the apostrophe would suggest.
Let Us Help You Choose the Perfect Weighted Blanket
We typically recommend a customizing your blanket to between 5-15% of your body weight and a size that fits your body rather than your bed, however the ideal size and weight of your blanket is an extremely personal choice. We are happy to work with you from start to finish to make sure you get exactly what you need from your blanket. These helpful tips will help you get the most out of your weighted blanket for years to come.