Sleep and White Matter in Adults with Down Syndrome

Fleming, VictoriaPiro-Gambetti, BriannaBazydlo, AustinZammit, MatthewAlexander, Andrew LChristian, Bradley THanden, BenjaminPlante, David THartley, Sigan L


Disordered sleep is a common issue reported among those with Down syndrome (DS). This study examined this issue by looking at sleep information from participants over 7 days along with any observed issues and brain imagery. Initial findings suggest a connection between sleep disruption and white matter in middle aged people with DS. Deeper study is needed to confirm the connections made by this research, but sleep interventions could serve as an important component of brain health support for the DS population.


Adults with Down syndrome are at a high risk for disordered sleep. These sleep problems could have marked effects on aging and Alzheimer's disease, potentially altering white matter integrity. This study examined the associations between disordered sleep assessed via an actigraph accelerometer worn on 7 consecutive nights, presence of diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, and diffusion tensor imaging indices of white matter integrity in 29 non-demented adults with Down Syndrome (48% female, aged 33-54 years). Average total sleep time was associated with lower mean diffusivity in the left superior longitudinal fasciculus (r = -0.398, p = 0.040). Average sleep efficiency, length of awakenings, and movement index were related to fractional anisotropy in the right inferior longitudinal fasciculus (r = -0.614 to 0.387, p ≤ 0.050). Diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea was associated with fractional anisotropy in the right inferior longitudinal fasciculus (r = -0.373, p = 0.050). Findings suggest that more disrupted sleep is associated with lower white matter integrity in the major association tracts in middle-aged adults with Down syndrome. Longitudinal work is needed to confirm the directionally of associations. Sleep interventions could be an important component for promoting optimal brain aging in the Down syndrome population.


Alzheimer Disease, Sleep Apnea, Obstructive