Sleep Disorders Often Mistaken for ADHD

Whilst the diagnosis of ADHD is reaching epidemic proportions, yet another possible explanation is being uncovered:

“Sleep disorders may contribute to behaviors that resemble ADHD during the day,” says Kevin Smith, a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. A study published in March in Pediatrics analyzed more than 11,000 children over a period of six years, beginning at 6 months of age, and revealed that children suffering from sleep-disordered breathing—including snoring, breathing through the mouth, and apnea, where the child seems to stop breathing for several seconds at a time—had a higher incidence of behavioral and emotional issues such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, depression, and anxiety. In fact, they were 50 to 90 percent more likely to develop ADHD-like symptoms than were normal breathers. And those children who suffered most severely from all three sleep-disordered breathing behaviors at around age 2 and a half had the highest risk for hyperactivity.

A lack of sleep can damage brain neurons, particularly in the prefrontal cortex region, says Karen Bonuck, lead author and professor of family and social medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. This may be due to a decrease in oxygen and an increase in carbon dioxide levels; interference with sleep’s restorative processes; and a disruption in the balance of cellular and chemical systems. What can result is inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—the classic trademarks of ADHD. When the disorder is suspected in a child, “nighttime sleep patterns should be reviewed with the primary care doctor,” says Bonuck. “Parents may even wish to video or audio tape the problematic behavior as a first step.”

Now it is up to doctors to do their due diligence and ensure that what may seem like ADHD isn’t a raft of other minor possibilities such as sleep or diet issues.

Click here to read my post, ‘Are Children Getting Enough Sleep?’

Click here to read my post, ‘Sleep Deprived Children in the Classroom’.

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