Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is highly prevalent among individuals with Down syndrome (DS), and the nonphysiological consequences of OSA require examination to inform treatment planning. This study aimed to investigate the association between OSA and aspects of language, executive functioning, behavioral, social abilities, and sleep problems in youth with DS aged 6 to 17 years.
Multivariate analysis of covariance was used to compare 3 groups adjusted for age, participants with DS with untreated OSA (n = 28), participants with DS without OSA (n = 38), and participants with DS with treated OSA (n = 34). To be eligible for the study, participants had to have an estimated mental age of 3 years. No children were excluded based on estimated mental age.
After adjusting for age, participants with untreated OSA showed a common pattern of lower estimated marginal mean scores than those with treated OSA and those with no OSA in expressive and receptive vocabulary and higher estimated marginal mean scores with executive functions, everyday memory, attention, internalizing and externalizing behavior, social behavior, and sleep problems. However, only the group differences for executive function (emotional regulation) and internalizing behavior were statistically significant.
Study findings corroborate and extend prior findings related to OSA and clinical outcomes for youth with DS. The study highlights the importance of OSA treatment in youth with DS and provides clinical recommendations for this population. Additional studies are necessary to control the effects of health and demographic variables.