How do I Recognise a Sleep Disorder in someone with an Intellectual Disability?

If you, or someone you know, has an intellectual disability then it is perhaps even harder to diagnose a sleep disorder due to the other symptoms that may be present. The change in behavioural patterns and sleepiness may be put down to the intellectual disability but it is equally likely that the person could be suffering from a sleeping disorder. A change in sleeping pattern may be a much harder task for people with intellectual disabilities but perseverance could mean that a better night’s sleep is achieved.

Due to the stress that someone with an intellectual disability may experience during the day it is equally important for them to sleep as for anyone else. Due to differing characteristics with varied intellectual disabilities, then it is perhaps even more important to monitor the sleeping patterns. Many intellectually disabled people suffer from insomnia, sleepiness and night waking. Sleep apnoea is also very common in people with Down’s syndrome but will often go unnoticed. Due to their intellectual disability the reporting of sleep disruption may rely on diagnosis by a parent or a carer. It is important that parents and carers do not just assume that disruptive sleep is part of the intellectual disability, as an unnoticed sleep disorder could lead to longer-term health conditions and should be treated as a separate condition. Observations of any abnormal patterns within  sleep should be assessed, monitored and reported to a doctor.  

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