Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. Sleep apnea can seriously affect a person's health, behavior, and ability to learn. It is more common in people who have Down syndrome, achondroplasia, Hunter syndrome, Hurler syndrome, Sanfilippo syndrome, spina bifida, and Arnold-Chiari malformation.

Behaviors that may be telling you about sleep apnea include:

  • Breathes through the mouth when asleep
  • Sleeps in unusual positions--sitting up, in a chair, using several pillows, in knee-chest position, or with the neck tilted back
  • Snores loudly, then is silent, then gasps
  • Jerks or starts suddenly during sleep
  • Wakes often during the night
  • Wets the bed
  • Sweats heavily at night
  • Behavior is worse in the morning
  • Complains of headache in morning
  • Breathes through mouth when awake
  • Daytime sleepiness; frequently falls asleep (such as when riding in the car, even for short distances)
  • Frequent naps
  • Fatigue
  • Can't concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Anxiety or depression

Other factors that may indicate the presence of sleep apnea:

  • Underweight or failure to thrive
  • Unusual face or head structure
  • Floppy muscle tone
  • Morning headache
  • Obesity

Do you think someone's behavior may be telling you about sleep apnea? Talk with your doctor or other health care provider. They can work with you to learn whether this is the case.