ADHD and Sleep Apnea are Often Misdiagnosed Due to Similar Symptoms

boy yawning sleep issue or adhd

By Dr. Charles Kravitz

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is linked to a variety of sleep problems. For example, one recent study found that children with ADHD had higher rates of daytime sleepiness than children without ADHD. Another study found that 50% of children with ADHD had signs of sleep-disordered breathing, compared to only 22% of children without ADHD. Research also suggests that restless legs syndrome and periodic leg movement syndrome are also common in children with ADHD.

Sleep Apnea can affect school performance. One recent study suggests that some kids diagnosed with ADHD actually have attention problems in school because of disrupted sleep patterns caused by obstructive sleep apnea.

A common type of apnea in children, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is caused by an obstruction of the airway (such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids). This is most likely to happen during sleep because that’s when the soft tissue at the back of the throat is most relaxed. As many as 1% to 3% of otherwise healthy preschool-age kids have obstructive apnea. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are the most common causes of sleep apnea in children.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a term used to describe hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and/or impulsivity. It is a common condition that begins in childhood and may persist into adulthood. Children with ADHD typically have trouble sitting still, staying focused, and/or controlling their behavior and emotions, which can lead to lower social skills, isolation, dependence, and poor performance in school. For this reason, children with ADHD often require special attention from parents, teachers, school systems and health care and mental health professionals in order to succeed.

In general, sleep deprivation is a problem among children in America. According to NSF’s Sleep in America poll, more than two-thirds of children experience one or more sleep problems at least a few nights a week. For children with ADHD, poor sleep (too little sleep or symptoms of sleep disorders) may profoundly impact ADHD symptoms. In fact, one study found that treating sleep problems may be enough to eliminate attention and hyperactivity issues for some children.

Keep your child healthy 

If you suspect that your child has sleep apnea, call your doctor. Search for a dentist or physician who is trained and certified in the screening and treatment of sleep apnea. Although prolonged pauses in breathing can be serious, after a doctor does a complete evaluation and a diagnosis is made, most cases of apnea can be treated or managed.

Excerpted by author from these sources:

National Sleep Foundation
Mayo Clinic
Kids Health
Lana B. Patitucci, D.O.  Board Certified Otolaryngologist at The Pennsylvania Snoring and Sleep Institute

Dr. Charles Kravitz is the Professional Relations Director at Sleep Group Solutions. This article was republished with permission from Sleep Group Solutions (SGS). SGS offers dental sleep medicine training and education. Find out more here.

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