According to a new review of studies in the US and UK, snoring and sleep apnea may be a major cause of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity Disorder) in children. The review showed that about half of children with chronic snoring or sleep apnea were diagnosed with ADHD. Although the study looks at the effects of sleep disordered breathing in children, there are insights from the study that may be relevant to adult patients, as well.
How Poor Sleep May Contribute to ADHD
Studies have shown that children with sleep apnea show a number of symptoms commonly attributed to ADHD, including:
Lower academic performance
It’s easy to see how these symptoms could then be attributed to ADHD. It’s also worth noting that many of these symptoms are common in adults with sleep apnea.
The study provides ammunition for doctors who have been trying to reduce what they describe as the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of ADHD. Professor Jon Jureidini, a leading child psychiatrist, has even come out and said that ADHD is not a diagnosis, but a description of symptoms that can be caused by many things, including sleep deprivation.
Treating Children Is Different
Treating children who have sleep apnea can be more challenging than treating adults. Oral appliances have not proven to be effective on children, and CPAP compliance is even lower in children than in adults. Surgical treatment can be used, but evidence of effectiveness is limited, and it comes with significant risks. Some recommend orthodontic treatment for sleep apnea, but this is controversial.
As a result, watching and waiting is often recommended. Unlike adults, children often get over sleep apnea naturally. In children, the obstruction of airways may be temporarily caused by uneven growth, although, as in adults, obesity is increasingly to blame.