What is Angelman Syndrome?

July 1, 2022 | Abram's Nation

Angelman Syndrome is a rare and complex neurogenetic disorder that influences every aspect of life. Because Angelman Syndrome (AS) affects the nervous system, it can lead to intellectual disabilities, mobility challenges, seizures, sleep issues, and a variety of additional symptoms that require daily support from family members and caregivers. With the proper support, however, individuals with Angelman Syndrome can live long, happy lives.

Table of Contents
What Are the Symptoms of Angelman’s Syndrome?
Treatment Strategies for Angelman Syndrome
How Does Angelman Syndrome Affect Sleep?

What are the Symptoms of Angelman Syndrome?

Because of the developmental delays they cause, the first symptoms of Angelman Syndrome generally appear while your loved one is between six and 12 months old, and these symptoms can become more pronounced as they age. 

We’ll divide the most common symptoms into four categories: psychological, behavioral, physical, and sleep-related.

Psychological Symptoms of Angelman Syndrome

Common psychological symptoms include:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • A short attention span
  • Being easily excitable

Behavioral Symptoms of Angelman Syndrome

Common behavior symptoms include: 

  • A love of water
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Keeping arms in the air with elbows and wrists bend
  • Frequently sticking out the tongue
  • Frequent laughter
  • Frequent smiling

Physical Symptoms of Angelman Syndrome

Common physical symptoms include: 

  • Digestive issues, including constipation
  • Motor impairments and balance issues
  • Scoliosis
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems, including nearsightedness or crossed eyes
  • Wide teeth spacing
  • Fair skin and hair
  • Short stature

Communication Symptoms of Angelman Syndrome

Common communication-related symptoms include:

  • Trouble speaking or learning to speak
  • Reliance on-verbal communication, including smiling, pointing, and gestures

Sleep-Related Symptoms of Angelman Syndrome

Sleep-related symptoms include:

  • Sleeping less than other children
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep

To learn more about what Angelman Syndrome can look like on a daily basis, watch this interview with Abram’s Nation founder Rose Morris and special needs mother Jamee Kovacs:

Treatment Strategies for Angelman Syndrome

There is no cure for Angelman Syndrome. However, because scientists understand the root causes of AS, some researchers believe we may have a cure in the future. 

Currently, the best treatment for Angelman Syndrome is to address the patient’s primary symptoms. This may require:

  • Anti-epileptic medication to reduce or prevent harmful seizures.
  • Physiotherapy to improve posture and mobility, as well as to prevent muscle degradation.
  • Communication therapy to help the individual move beyond gestures and facial expressions to use sign language or augmentative and alternative communication devices, such as electronic tablets.
  • Behavioral therapy to assist with attention span and hyperactivity, and to reduce dangerous or non-desirable behaviors. 
  • Sleep aids and medications to assist in helping your loved one fall asleep and stay asleep each night.

Because the needs of each individual with Angelman Syndrome are different, your loved one may require their own unique treatment plan that could evolve over time.

How Does Angelman Syndrome Affect Sleep? 

Researchers are still trying to fully understand how Angelman Syndrome influences sleep, but studies show anywhere from 20% to 80% of Angelman Syndrome patients suffer from sleep-related issues. The symptoms are often most pronounced in patients between 2-9 years old, and some patients eventually outgrow these sleep issues.

Common Angelman Syndrome-related sleep issues include:

  • Sleeping for less time than their peers every night
  • Taking longer to fall asleep
  • Seizures occurring while waking or in light sleep
  • Sleep disturbances caused by physical pain or discomfort

Because individuals with Angelman Syndrome require higher levels of care compared to their peers, these sleep issues may also negatively impact their family members, as parents, siblings, and caregivers may need to wake up in the middle of the night to provide care or treatment.

Addressing Sleep Issues for Individuals With Angelman Syndrome

While prolonged sleep in Angelman Syndrome patients can be difficult, strategies are available to assist in achieving better, higher-quality sleep.

Some strategies include:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. 
  • Stick to a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine. Some parents like to give warm baths with soothing salts and lotions. 
  • Give the patient a low-noise and low-light environment to sleep in. 
  • Dress the patient in comfortable clothing or pajamas that prevent overheating. 
  • Give the patient a secure and enclosed environment to keep them safe and promote sleep. 

Enclosed Safety Beds for Angelman Syndrome

Finding an Angelman Syndrome bed is an important step in providing a safe sleeping environment. 

One solution we recommend is The Safety Sleeper®, an enclosed safety bed specifically designed for individuals with special needs. Its fully enclosed design creates a unique sense of security that often helps users fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer while also preventing them from climbing or falling out of bed. 

Additional Support for Angelman Syndrome

If you’d like to find additional information or support related to Angelman Syndrome, visit the Angelman Syndrome Foundation. This organization reports on the latest Angelman Syndrome research and provides a vast library of information for parents and caregivers to learn more about the disease. 

For additional day-to-day support, look through our specially designed wearables, which can assist in providing better care to your loved one, and our sensory development products to assist in nurturing individual growth and mental stimulation.