Sleep apnea in children may cause ADHD-like symptoms

Sleep apnea in children may cause ADHD-like symptoms
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that around nine-point-four percent of children between two and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. (Source: Pexels)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may also be a sign of asleep apnea in children according to experts.

An estimated one to four percent of children experience sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. Many of the children who deal with this disorder are between the ages of two and eight.

Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing during sleep; it is usually caused by something blocking or clogging the upper airway, according to Norton Children's Hospital.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that around nine-point-four percent of children between two and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Studies show that around 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the American Sleep Apnea Association explained. Experts say that learning difficulties and behavior issues may be a side effect of "chronic, fragmented sleep."

When sleep apnea occurs, breathing stops during sleep, oxygen levels drop in the body while carbon dioxide levels rise, Norton Children's Hospital explained. This triggers the brain to wake up in order to breathe.

Symptoms of OSA include:

  • Snoring
  • Loud or heavy breathing
  • Mouth breathing
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Snorting, coughing or choking in sleep
  • Sweating more in sleep
  • Bed wetting
  • Restless sleep
  • Abnormal sleeping positions (commonly seen in children with Down syndrome)

Children who deal with OSA may display the following during the day:

  • Behavioral issues
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of concentration at school
  • Morning headache
  • Poor school performance
  • Poor weight gain

Norton's website notes that "It’s important since the stereotype of the 'overactive, disruptive boy with ADHD' doesn’t match up with all types of ADHD, including how girls experience ADHD."

ADHD symptoms include the following.

  • Trouble sustaining focus on activities he or she finds boring or unrewarding
  • Trouble listening and following directions
  • Trouble staying seated, fidgeting; may experience discomfort trying to sit still
  • An excessive amount of energy
  • Tendency to interrupt, blurt things out
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Difficulty waiting his or her turn
  • Easily distractible, often distracted by external stimuli (sounds, smells, etc.)
  • Forgetfulness, tendency to lose necessary things (schoolbooks, keys, wallets, purse)
  • Impatience
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others
  • Often daydreams or seems like he or she isn’t listening when being spoken to directly
  • Very talkative

If you think your child has sleep apnea or ADHD, it’s recommended that parents talk to their child’s pediatrician.

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