It’s not too surprising that almost 10% of children are now thought to have ADHD, increasing 22% in the past 4 years. Click here to read article. Regardless of whether or not this is a reporting trend or a real problem, too many children are suffering and are being placed on stimulant medications. I’ve postulated in the past that a significant number of children with ADHD have a treatable sleep-breathing problem, with a number of studies supporting my position. Recently, there was a paper that was published in one of my sleep journals that looked at children with ADHD and found no significant increase in the rate of obstructive sleep apnea. This is what normally happens in medical research: conflicting results. With sleep apnea, how you define this condition can make a huge difference in whether or not you’ll find it. Many children (and adults) can have major problems breathing at night while sleeping, and not have any significant apneas. Not getting deep sleep can definitely wreak havoc on your brain.
We now know that chronic hypoxia, or even physiologic stress from not sleeping well, can diminish brain function. Even worse, certain areas of the brain that control memory, affect, executive function, and even breathing and autonomic function can be damaged. In each of these scenarios, you’ll be able to pick up biochemical changes in the brain. ADHD symptoms are only one small part of untreated sleep apnea—it can also cause or aggravate asthma, depression, anxiety, headaches, urinary frequency, heart disease, and stroke. What you’ll also often see is that parents of a child with ADHD will snore and have depression, high blood pressure, or diabetes. If the child is a mouth breather and can’t sleep on his or her back, then it’s even more likely to be a sleep-breathing problem.
Do you know any child on ADHD medications that may possibly have untreated obstructive sleep apnea?