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Sleep Disorders and ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD in children may manifest symptoms that are similar to sleep disorders. Some of the shared symptoms are : restlessness, over-active behavior and lack of focus or attention. Children apparently have the opposite reaction or response when sleep is disrupted. While adults with sleep problems tend to become less active and weak, children are the opposite. They become hyperactive to an extent.

A mental disorder known as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is characterized by hyperactivity, inattention, and inability to control urges or drives. ADHD has proven links to various sleep disorders.

Children who have ADHD may be observed to have disturbed or interrupted sleep. Studies have shown that ADHD children have more severe sleep disorder than other similar illnesses. There are more below on relationship between ADHD and some Sleep disorders:

  • Snoring and ADHD. Snoring in children is usually caused by large adenoids or tonsils blocking the airway. This blockage may develop into sleep apnea and cause ADHD-like  symptoms. Snoring may be a reason for poor sleep quality and this may eventually cause attention problems the following day. Studies have shown that snoring is common among ADHD children. And snoring children are likely to be afflicted with ADHD as well.

 Removing the tonsils or adenoids is found to help improve the child’s sleep pattern and better behavior without the need to take medications.

  • Sleep Apnea and ADHD. Apnea means ‘without breathing’. Sleep apnea is used to describe airflow disruption of at least ten seconds. One of the three kinds of apneas is obstructive apnea – it makes up *65% of all apneas. The absence of airflow from the nose and mouth to the lungs happens during obstructive sleep apnea. There is no airflow because the entrance to the trachea is blocked caused by various collapsed structures in the pharynx. The respiratory muscles continue to make efforts to get air into the lungs even when the trachea entrance had closed.

In general, people with sleep apnea have episodes of stopped breathing. When this happens, they are awakened from their sleep – awakening could happen from early stage of sleeping and even from the time they are already sleeping soundly.  Even with the awakening, one will remain absolutely oblivious of the sleep interruption or breathing disruption. The episodes are likely to happen many times during the night.

In the U.S. there are more or less *2% of the children population who manifest some form of disrupted breathing while sleeping. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are found to be the most noted reason for the children’s having apnea. This sleep  problem  observed in children may also be caused by obesity and chronic allergies. As with adults, children with sleep apnea will be tired during the day.

There is treatment available for sleep apnea in children. To begin with, your  pediatric doctor  or a specialist for ear, nose, and throat problems can identify and diagnose if your child’s tonsils are causing the apnea. The size of the child’s tonsils must be significantly larger than normal to cause obstruction in the airway to cause breathing disruption. For the diagnosis of sleep apnea to be confirmed, the child should undergo polysomnogram – a special laboratory-based study of sleep. Some children may have enlarged tonsils or are snoring loudly but do not have sleep apnea.

For children with abnormally large tonsils and adenoids, the treatment option is surgery. There are other treatments available for those having constrained breathing while sleeping due to other health problems.

  • RLS (restless leg syndrome) and ADHD. Restless leg syndrome is characterized by crawling sensations felt in the legs or arms which are very uncomfortable and annoying. This creates an overwhelming urge to move, thereby causing disruption in sleep and sleepiness during the day. People with RLS are not able to get good sleep. Hence, they will experience inattentiveness, moodiness, or hyperactivity. These are the same symptoms for ADHD. RLS is identified using polysomnogram or sleep study. Both ADHD and RLS may be treated with medications.

These cases show the clear relationship between ADHD and Sleep disorder symptoms. It sometimes happens that because of the overlapping symptoms of ADHD and Sleep disorder, some patients are misdiagnosed for the other disease.

 Ways to Help ADHD Children Get the Needed Sleep

  • Stay away from caffeine or other sleep-disrupting food or beverages. Check the label of the foods being eaten by your ADHD child. They increase nervousness, agitation which results to interrupted and disrupted sleep.
  • Keep a consistent and regular routine for sleeping, waking up or even eating schedules.
  • Soundproof your kid’s bedroom to shield from outside noises.
  • Don’t take sleep medication unless prescribed and recommended by the doctor..
  • Check for other medical problem or illnesses. Asthma, allergies and other conditions which cause airway narrowing or pain may contribute to disrupted sleeping.
  • Introduce your children to a light exercise regimen during the day. Exercise should not be done near bedtime.
  • A hot bath before bedtime can do wonders. A cool-temperature room may be helpful for a child to sleep in after a warm bath.


*Sourced from webMD

One Response to “Sleep Disorders and ADHD”

  1. Mary Ann says:

    My little one is diagnosed with ADHD. Interestingly, after going on medication; he is really doing great at home and at school.

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