ADHD, Autism and Apnea Connections

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders are two commonly described childhood conditions that are generally thought to be two different conditions. However, a recent study published in Pediatrics found that children with ADHD were 20 times more likely to exhibit traits of autism compared with children without ADHD. Numerous recent studies also report that a significant number of children with ADHD have untreated obstructive sleep apnea, and that the vast majority of children with autism have various degrees of sleep disorders. 

A frightening thought is that we’re defining obstructive sleep apnea based on the average number of apneas and hypopneas you have every hour. In children, apneas are complete pauses for two or more missed breaths and hypopneas are lesser degrees of obstruction, also for two or more missed breaths. You’ll need at least one to two apneas or hypopneas per hour to receive the sleep apnea diagnosis. But what if you stop breathing 10 times every hour but your breathing pauses last only 1.5 breaths? You’ll wake up from deep to light sleep 10 times every hour, but won’t officially get the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea. Knowing what we already know about poor sleep quality and proper brain functioning, the above study results are not too surprising.

Do you have children with ADHD or autism? If so, do they have features of both conditions?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “ADHD, Autism and Apnea Connections

  1. My (mis)diagnosis of Hyperactivity and mood disorder was in 1966 at age 4. The clinical psychologist from Paoli Mainline (Hospital) administered, either WISC or SB for children for learning disorders, but received a score of 149 with no discernible or extropolated LD. In 1968, with another clinician from Princeton, also (mis)diagnosed ADHD and prescribed Dexedrine resulting in adverse reaction. The CP switched to Ritalin therapy, with no effect or minimal adverse reaction. (Administering stimulant therapy with disordered SWS/SWA i.e. Bipolar, Schizophrenia [and inclusively, SDB] will have negative effect, so a non-stimulant therapy is administered.]
    I want to shed light on stimulant therapy, it only workis if the SWS/SWA is functional and of a duration to offer effectiveness. What this should signal is stimulant therapy will progressively fail as the SWS/SWA in maturing brains.and the loss of cortical tissue in the aging process.
    At this time anecdotal, no cohort studies.

  2. To answer the question. Yes, I have had attention issues and Autistic traits throughout my life. I have met a number of persons with OSA with cognitive and emotive disorders, Issues probable from the hypoxic apnea damage to the PFC and Anterior Cingulate and disordered SWS/SWA.

  3. Edit and Addendum.
    Stimulant therapy, only works if the SWS/SWA is functional and of a duration to offer effective sleep.

    Conjecture observation: Stimulant therapy will progressively fail as the SWS/SWA in maturing brains declines through the loss of cortical tissue in the aging process.

    In 1995, after an “amateurish sleep study” (quoting Dr. M. Kryger, Yale Sleep Medicine) in 1994, still had attention and focus issues and once again consulted with a CP in Braintree, and, again, prescribed stimulant therapy. This time, Ritalin’s adverse effects with untreated severe OSA, compliance 90 days without improvement, were also very detrimental to cognition, performance and behavoir.