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Does My Child Have ADHD or a Sleep Disorder?

The number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been steadily increasing over the past decade. According to a recent study, however, many children diagnosed with this condition don’t really have it; their behavioral problems are actually related to Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders (SRBD) like sleep apnea.

Children with SRBD are much more likely than kids without breathing issues to develop behavioral problems resembling ADHD by the age of 7. Sleepy children are more likely to become hyperactive, uncooperative, and less focused — just like kids with ADHD.

So, if your child has been exhibiting the symptoms of ADHD or has been diagnosed with it, it is worth considering whether a sleep-related breathing disorder is actually the cause of this behavior.

Signs of Sleep Disorders in Children

  • Snoring
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Problems with sleeping through the night
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day
  • Poor school performance/attention
  • Bedwetting
  • Restless sleep or “thrashing”
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is one of the most common sleep disorders. Breathing is impaired or completely stopped because of an obstruction in the upper airway. With children, OSA is usually caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

According to one study, hyperactivity and inattention showed significant improvement after adenotonsillectomy in children who have breathing disorders during sleep.

Undiagnosed and/or untreated obstructive sleep apnea can be associated with cardiovascular problems and impaired growth, as well as learning and behavioral problems. These children are often smaller, less developed and underweight because of a disruption in the nighttime production of growth hormones. They typically have a long face and dark eyes.  

How Can You Help Your Child?

The first step is to figure out whether your child is getting the restful sleep that is crucial to their health and well being.  When we examine your child, we may identify signs and symptoms of deficient growth and development of the head and jaws or other risk factors that may lead to airway issues. If risk is determined, intervention through medical and/or dental  treatment may be appropriate to help treat the disorder and often eliminate the root cause of the problem.

Surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids is generally considered the first line treatment for child sleep disorder breathing if the symptoms are significant and the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged. The use of oral appliances prescribed by a dentist is often beneficial, and these can be made by our office. Call us today if you have any questions, or if you want to schedule an evaluation for your child.

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