We treat ADHD with stimulants, but are we missing out on treating the root cause — a sleep disorder?
If you’re a parent who has gone through the gut-wrenching process of an ADHD diagnosis for your child, you’ve probably been recommended behavioral therapy or medication for your child — but how about a sleep study?
New research indicates a connection between ADHD and sleep apnea in children and teens.
It turns out the symptoms of ADHD — moodiness, forgetfulness, problems listening, trouble focusing — are also the symptoms of early stage sleep apnea in children and teens.
Coincidence? Or could it be your ADHD child is suffering the biological, physiological, and chemical changes to the brain resulting from missing out on restorative deep stage sleep?
The Facts About ADHD and Sleep Apnea in Children and Teens
- 40 to 60% of children that have sleep apnea have some form of ADD or ADHD.
- Sleep apnea and sleep disorders are a major cause of behavioral issues in children and teens.
- Sleep apnea is far more prevalent in children that we originally thought, perhaps as common in children and teenagers as in adults.
- Teeth grinding at any age is an indication of a struggle to keep the airway open at night.
What Happens At Night
We go into a mildly paralyzed state where all our muscles relax, including the muscles around the airway. The muscles that engage the jaw let go as well and the jaw retrudes and falls back.
When the jaw falls back, so does the tongue. When the tongue falls back and you’re lying down, the weight of the two falls back towards the back of the throat, which blocks the airway.
Here’s the problem: All the symptoms listed for sleep apnea — heart arrhythmias, diabetes, stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, grinding of the teeth — are all the delayed symptoms that come on later in life.
Sleep apnea is often the last thing we associate with young, healthy children and teenagers. Sleep apnea carries connotations of snoring and obesity, and we think of children as young, healthy, and “sleeping like babies.”
So ADHD is Connected to Sleep Apnea?
Your body heals and your immune system regenerates itself during sleep, so the impact of sleep apnea and sleep disorders in children on physical and mental health is great.
If you don’t get that deep sleep, during which the growth hormone is released in both kids and adults, you’re not getting the full restorative benefits of sleep, which is the only chance the body and brain have to repair from the damage and stress of the day. This has implications for later in life on brain development.Read Next: The Complete Guide to At-Home Sleep Tests, Plus My Favorite Way to Track Sleep
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