Sleep Disorders That Mimic ADHD

Fifty percent of children with ADHD also have a sleep disorder. Treating the ADHD but ignoring the sleep apnea would not fully help the child. Sleep apnea and sleep deprivation affect the frontal lobe of the brain, like ADHD does.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is something that troubles both the affected children and their families. But looking deeper into the child’s nighttime behavior may yield surprising results. You might find you’re child’s wild behavior during the day is linked to problems at night. “About 50% of children with ADHD also have a sleep disorder and having a sleep disorder can directly give symptoms of ADHD,” says Dr. Jose Colon. Dr. Colon is a pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist with the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. “If you’re treating ADHD but you’re not addressing the sleep disorder then you’re not gonna get maximum affect for the medications.” It might surprise parents to learn and estimate 3% of the pediatric population has sleep apnea; a condition where they briefly stop breathing. Sleep apnea and chronic sleep deprivation both affect the brain’s frontal lobe. “The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that we use for attention. The ADHD medications primarily work with the frontal lobe. I have had multiple patients that in treating a sleep disorder their attention problems have dramatically improved,” says Dr. Colon. Other times a child will have a limb movement disorder that fragments their sleep. “Interestingly some studies have taken children diagnosed with periodic limb movement disorder and 75 percent of those kids can have daytime ADHD symptoms,” says Dr. Colon. The gold standard in diagnosing a sleep disorder is to undergo a
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