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?