“What does sleep apnea have to do with ADHD? Isn’t sleep apnea basically a middle-aged obese guy’s issue?” Those readers would be correct. By far the most common person with obstructive sleep apnea is in fact an overweight male over 40. However, at least 30 percent of those eventually diagnosed with the condition do not fit that profile. Patients of all ages, gender and size can have sleep apnea, including young children.
“How does that work? Aren’t kids with ADHD by definition hyperactive, not sleepy?” That is true. However, adults and kids react differently sometimes. When adults don’t get enough sleep, they are tired the next day. Kids don’t always respond that way. They often get hyperactive during the day and exhibit symptoms like poor behavior or performance in school, crankiness, lack of focus and daydreaming. These are very similar to the symptoms used to diagnose ADHD.
The next logical question would be, “So what types of things should a parent look for? How do you tell the difference between true ADHD and symptoms that may be caused by a lack of oxygen during sleep?”
There are things to look for, that your pediatrician or a properly trained dentist should be able to see and share with you. Tell them if your child snores, or has been diagnosed with ADHD previously as part of their medical history review. Ask them to look for enlarged tonsils, a high palate, a small lower jaw or crooked teeth.
Other signs may include sweating heavily at night and bedwetting in younger children or at least frequent trips to the bathroom. These all point toward the need for evaluation for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Poor sleep also affects growth and development, including a tendency toward obesity, which only makes the sleep apnea problem worse due to increased fat deposits around the neck.
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