How Smith-Magenis Syndrome Impacts Sleep

October 14, 2022 | Abram's Nation

Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS) is a rare developmental disorder that can cause a variety of mental, behavioral, physical, and sleep-related issues. Although SMS is only found in less than 1 in 25,000 people (about 0.004% of the population), its impact is often felt much wider. In fact, the sleep disruptions caused by SMS can negatively influence entire families! 

It’s something we hear quite often from parents of children with Smith-Magenis Syndrome: Their kids’ sleep patterns often keep the parents and other family members awake through the night, leading to a variety of issues throughout the day for the whole family. 

To help, we’re taking a closer look at some of the most common issues surrounding Smith-Magenis Syndrome and its impact on healthy sleep. 

Smith-Magenis Syndrome’s Sleep-Related Symptoms

Many of the sleep-related symptoms of SMS revolve around melatonin, a hormone responsible for helping individuals fall and remain asleep throughout the night. Most people naturally secrete melatonin in the evenings leading up to bedtime. But many individuals with SMS produce melatonin during the day, which can lead to a variety of issues. 

Here are a few ways SMS can affect sleep in both patients and their family members: 

  1. Disrupted circadian rhythm. That inverted melatonin production means individuals with Smith-Magenis Syndrome are more likely to feel awake at night and sleepy during the day. 
  2. Trouble falling asleep. As an extension of that disrupted circadian rhythm, people with SMS may have trouble falling asleep in the evening, even if they felt tired throughout the day. 
  3. Frequent nighttime waking. Thanks in part to their decreased nighttime melatonin levels, children and adults with SMS are more likely to wake up during the night or in the early hours of the morning, and they may also struggle to fall back asleep after they’ve woken up. 
  4. Daytime sleepiness. Daytime sleepiness is a common syndrome associated with SMS, and this sleepiness can lead to irritability, confusion, and even trouble in therapy. Some individuals also experience “sleep attacks,” which is sudden fatigue so severe, they’ll go to sleep anywhere. 
  5. Frustration and exhaustion for the entire family. Between the trouble falling asleep, nighttime waking, and daytime sleepiness, family members and caregivers for individuals with SMS may experience reduced sleep quality and mental and physical fatigue throughout the day. Together, these symptoms can lead to difficulties in properly caring for their loved ones with SMS.

Obviously, SMS can negatively influence healthy sleep in a variety of ways. Overcoming these hurdles is essential for good health! 

How to Improve Sleep for People With SMS

For individuals with SMS-related sleep issues, here are a few strategies that can assist in achieving restful sleep every night: 

  1. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Following the same relaxing routine at the same time every day gently encourages healthy sleep while also helping your loved one calm down. Maintaining this routine may help them fall asleep at a reasonable hour, allowing the caregivers to go to bed as well. 
  2. Melatonin supplements. A melatonin supplement near the end of the day can help individuals with SMS increase their melatonin levels, allowing them to relax and fall asleep. Talk to a doctor to determine what dosage is safe and appropriate for your child! 
  3. Teach the individual when it’s OK to wake up. Many children with special needs struggle with sleep. A common tactic for encouraging both sleep and rest is to establish a “wake-up time”—the time of day when getting up is OK. 
  4. Create a dark environment. Darkness encourages the body to sleep. And the darker the room, the stronger the signals the body receives! Use black-out curtains to eliminate light from outside and be sure the hallway light remains turned off throughout the night. 
  5. Limit naps to the middle of the day. As we mentioned above, “sleep attacks” are common among people with SMS, and they have the unique ability to sleep just about anywhere! But by limiting naps to the middle of the day (as opposed to the evening hours), you can help them get the extra sleep they need without completely disrupting the evening schedule.
  6. Take care of distracting medical issues. Individuals with SMS can have a variety of uncomfortable physical issues, including heart problems, constipation, and ear infections. If your child is suffering from physical discomfort at bedtime or throughout the evening, they could have a more difficult time falling asleep. 
  7. Use a special needs safety bed for Smith-Magenis Syndrome. Giving your child a fully enclosed special needs bed, like The Safety Sleeper®, can provide them with a safe, comfortable place to sleep through the night without the risk of nighttime eloping or hurting themselves on objects around the bedroom. 

All children are different, and your child may need a special combination of tactics to get to sleep on a regular basis. If necessary, contact your doctor or a specialist for more information! 

Using The Safety Sleeper® for Smith-Magenis Syndrome

The Safety Sleeper® was designed from the ground up with special needs children in mind! With its fully enclosed design, memory foam mattress, and extra frame padding, The Safety Sleeper® creates a safe and soothing environment intended to help individuals with Smith-Magenis Syndrome fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, while preventing many of the self-harming behaviors common in SMS. 

To learn more, read our article on SMS and The Safety Sleeper®!
If you have questions about The Safety Sleeper®, look through our models or contact us with questions!