Six Percent of All Children Are On ADHD Medications!

The number of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has risen 42% in the past 10 years. These findings were reported online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Currently, 11% of children in the United states have a diagnosis of ADHD. In addition, 6% of all 4 to 17 year olds (3.5 million children) in this country are reported by their parents to be taking medication for ADHD, which is a 28% increase from 2008 to 2012. 

What’s more frightening than these statistics is that the real incidence of hyperactively and behavior problems probably goes underreported and under-diagnosed. What frustrates me every time I hear or read about this epidemic is that sleep is almost never mentioned as a major possible cause of this condition. Sometimes, good sleep hygiene is mentioned, but only rarely is the possibility of an underlying sleep-related breathing disorder ever addressed.

In a past study, 28% of children scheduled to undergo routine tonsillectomy were found to have ADHD. After tonsillectomy, 50% were cured of their ADHD diagnosis. 

ADHD has many different causes and it’s likely that there are multiple factors that add up to produce symptoms in a child, but poor sleep due to any reason can definitely affect memory, focus and attention. Not breathing well during sleep with lack of oxygen to the brain can make things even worse.

It’s also not too coincidental that the estimated rate of snoring for children in this country is about 10%. Another study showed that the presence of snoring in young children predicted behavior problems in later school years. We know that a significant number of people who snore have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea. We also know that snoring without obstructive sleep apnea can still significantly affect sleep, with increased risk of attention problems, car accidents, and even stroke in adults.

Given all the evidence, it’s important to at least screen for obstructive sleep apnea in any child with a new diagnosis of ADHD. 


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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

9 thoughts on “Six Percent of All Children Are On ADHD Medications!

  1. From my own experience, my parents always tell the story of how i wore out 9 pairs of shoes in one year when I was very young; and my nickname when I was young was “the little tornado.” As an adult, after my first sleep study I was diagnosed with UARS at approx. 25 episodes per hour plus microbreathing events of over 50 an hour, and my longest apnea was 66 seconds.

    My oldest sister says I was just “high spirited” as a a child and totally dismisses sleep breathing issues.

    It”s very frustrating also because my niece is a cardiac nurse and dismisses sleep disordered breathing, unless it’s overweight adult men, and my 2nd eldest sister is a nurse and dismisses sleep disordered breathing because she’s told by her chiropractor that’s not what makes people sick. .

    I went to my nurse practitioner for hormones the other week and she made a derogatory remark that sleep apena is just a “catch all” for illnesses.

    Sorry to be negative, but that’s the word on the streets here.

  2. hi JP. yeah, that’s the word I hear all over too. but after jaw surgery turned my life around when 2 sleep studies in my city couldn’t even find my sleep disordered breathing, I don’t believe that word for a second. the problem is a diagnostic one. of course they don’t think it’s so prevalent if none of the sleep labs can find it. diagnostic methods need to improve.

  3. Hi Dr. Deb – I have not believed what others have to say against sleep disordered breathing since I read Dr. Park’s initial book and Dr. Krakow’s book “Sound Sleep, Sound Mind.” The correlation between anatomy and sleep apnea answered my personal health issues of extreme fatigue, morning headaches, and the other typical “end-organ” issues associated with UARS.

    I did have a dramatic reduction in RERAs after septoplasty and turbinate reduction. I still have mild nonstop snoring and wake myself up occasionally from snoring. I think a bipap may be helpful since I found it diffcult to breathe with CPAP. i was hoping to have my tonsils out and coblation performed to reduce tongue tissue at the base of my tongue but my insurance co. denied the coblation.

    Really, really happy for your success with jaw surgery and I admire you and Dr. Park’s resoluteness. I just get exasperated by the opposition, but I manage to rally and still try to spread the word when appropriate.

  4. JP U shd read abt intracranial hypertension andthe linkto OSA. BiPAP. Definitely better than CPAP if IIH involved. I think its the reason CPAP not tolerated and the cause of am headache and severe fatigue. I had that tongue surgery but it did not fix. MMA counterclockwise did but I think mainly Bc it ledto decreased resistance in my jugular veins. U can email me. My email address is on my paper. ANP paper link on this site in the blog

  5. JP,

    If you think OSA is a commonly undiagnosed condition, I’m willing to bet that UARS is even bigger. At least the typical sleep apnea patients can get tested, diagnosed, and treated. I have lots of patients with an AHI of 0, but have obvious narrowed upper airways and frequent obstructions with arousals. Most of these patients get placed on anti-anxiety medications, hormonal treatments or nutritional supplements. Yes, these options can help to various degrees, but you’re not really getting to the root of the problem. Mandibular advancement devices can be helpful for tongue base collapse. Good luck.

  6. Dr. Park – thanks for your reply. I did have a professionally and very expensive mandibular device made, but apparently if “rotated my tongue backwards.” I used it faithfully for six months and had a sleep studiy that showed my apneas actually increased with it, and I still had the same fatigue issues..

  7. This goes for adults too. I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult years before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. There is nothing like giving stimulants to someone sleep deprived to make them feel better and more focused.

    That said there is no question that I have ADD. Just that CPAP therapy helps more than drugs though the drugs are still necessary. There is no doubt that sleep testing should be a part of anyone getting diagnosed with ADD.

    Studying co-morbid conditions is important. What are the negative reinforcements between Depression, ADD, Sleep Apnea and GERD. and their various therapies and medications.