Most kids who are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) could actually have a misdiagnosed sleep disorder. According to a new study, 70% of ADHD cases might actually be masked Central Sleep Apnea, a breathing disorder that affects sleep.
There are always a few kids in school who struggle with sitting still and focusing. These kids often end up diagnosed with ADHD. Other symptoms of this disorder include hyperactivity and irritability. But ADHD is not a synonym for bad behavior, and sometimes parents and professionals need to look further before assuming that is what a child has. That's because sleep deprivation in children can mimic behavioral symptoms seen in children with ADHD.
In a series of studies conducted by the National Health Institute, 70 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD whose sleep-disordered breathing was corrected stopped showing signs of the disorder. Before the study, these children required medication to cope with their behavior and ability to remain focused. After six months, the medication was no longer needed. The results indicate that these kids never had ADHD to begin with.
ADHD medications can be necessary for some children, but they come with side effects, and they need to be taken over the long term. Central Sleep Apnea, the breathing disorder that mirrored ADHD symptoms, can be treated without the use of long term medication, and sometimes without medication at all.
If parents or teaching suspect ADHD, they might do best to first take a look at the child's sleep hygiene. It may be something as basic as adjusting the evening routine at home. Kids need up to eleven hours of sleep overnight, and things like screens too close to bedtime or sugar with dinner can affect the quality of their sleep. Screening for Central Sleep Apnea should be the next step.
Some children do have ADHD, but it is best to rule out sleep deprivation or sleep disorders first. Getting the right diagnosis will make the treatment most effective.