Sleep Disorders and ADHD
In the journal Today’s Parent, adults describe what it felt like to have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as young children, “It’s like your mind shuts down because you have to put so much effort into policing your brain.” Because that seems “normal” for them, it can be challenging for those with ADHD to describe the difficulties they face every day, and it can also be a challenge for others to understand them.
ADHD comprises a combination of problems such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior estimated to affect 5 percent of U.S. children, according to the American Psychiatric Association. While many think of ADHD as a childhood condition, it often lasts into adulthood.
Strides have been made in ADHD research, but much is still unknown about the disorder. One area that is just beginning to be explored is the relationship between ADHD and sleep. Because sleep disturbances related to the disorder generally appear in late childhood, they have not received much attention until recently. However, patients with ADHD often report difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and waking in the morning.
The nonprofit organization Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) notes that the frequency of sleep-disordered breathing in children with ADHD is approximately 25 to 30 percent, compared with just 3 percent of other children. As many as 40 percent of individuals with ADHD are obese, which has a strong correlation to sleep disordered breathing, especially obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA is a serious disorder, often accompanied by loud snoring, in which breathing stops and restarts repeatedly during sleep. Because it results in poor sleep, OSA impacts alertness and performance. Patients with OSA often report symptoms similar to those of ADHD, such as lack of focus, daytime sleepiness and trouble with memory.
The symptoms are so similar that Dr. Vatsal Thakkar, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University Langone Medical Center, considers sleep problems as a possible cause when evaluating patients for ADHD. CHADD also recently suggested that because sleep disorders are often related to ADHD or may even result in a misdiagnosis of ADHD, it is vital that sleep screenings be a part of any ADHD assessment.
When appropriate, OSA can be treated with a comfortable oral appliance similar to a mouth guard after obtaining a diagnosis through a sleep study.
For more information about sleep apnea and oral appliance therapy or to schedule a sleep apnea screening, call Beth Hamann, DDS, at Koala Center for Sleep Disorders at 602-883-1931 or visit KoalaAZ.com.