Is Your Sleep Apnea Being Misdiagnosed as ADHD?
Between 50 and 75 percent of children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also suffer from sleep problems. ADHD is often misdiagnosed as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can leave you feeling tired, disinterested, and unmotivated, all of which are also symptoms of ADHD.
The relationship between ADHD and sleep apnea is complex, and not always straightforward, Dr. Clinton recommends getting a sleep study done in order to receive the right diagnosis and the proper treatment. Dr. Clinton is proud to provide his years of expertise to his patients in Ellis County, TX, and the surrounding areas including Red Oak, Midlothian, Maypearl, and Ennis.
Shared Symptoms Between ADHD & Sleep Apnea
Due to the shared symptoms, it can be difficult to accurately diagnose the condition. It’s important for you to recognize the signs to understand what you or your child may be suffering from. Symptoms of ADHD include:
- Lack of focus
- Easily distracted
These are all symptoms that could also be caused by sleep apnea and a lack of sleep, often leading to a misdiagnosis. We recommend that you have a sleep study conducted to provide doctors with a more complete and accurate picture of your health.
Misdiagnoses Happen: The Safety of a Sleep Study
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat relax and don’t hold your airway open as you breathe in your sleep. This disrupts the flow of oxygen, wakes you up as soon as you stop breathing, and robs the body of the sleep it needs.
In 2013, Dr. Lauri Blesch and scientist Sarah Breese published the experience of a young man of healthy weight who was reportedly getting more than eight hours of sleep each night, yet felt tired and found it hard to focus during the day.
He was told he had ADHD and given medication, but five months later the patient returned again complaining of still feeling tired. After being referred to a sleep specialist, it was found that the young man suffered from sleep apnea. This was verified after a second evaluation ruled that he did not have adult ADHD.
Because symptoms can be so similar, initial misdiagnoses can happen. If some ADHD symptoms do not reflect your own experience, you may want to sign up for a sleep study.
A CPAP Alternative Can Help
If the cause of the symptoms is an obstructed passageway, a CPAP alternative — such as an oral sleep appliance — can help retain the normal flow of oxygen into your lungs and alleviate the problems which are causing you to lose sleep. Which solution is best will depend on the severity of your sleep apnea, but oral appliances are often preferred to CPAP by patients with mild-to-moderate OSA.
Some patients suffer from both sleep apnea and ADHD. In these situations, sleep apnea can exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD. In cases such as these, a CPAP or CPAP alternative can help to at least attenuate many of the problems associated with attention deficit disorder, including tiredness and impatience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can treatment improve my sleep apnea symptoms?
Yes! Receiving treatment can help alleviate your sleep apnea symptoms. If sleep apnea is left untreated, it can lead to serious health consequences such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. When you receive treatment, you’re gaining your sleep quality back. Your body and mind will start getting the rest they need, which can strengthen your immune system.
What is a sleep study?
When you undergo a sleep study a sleep specialist monitors your vitals during sleep including heart rate, brain activity, and oxygen levels. After the study is conducted and a diagnosis is made, Dr. Clinton will use your diagnosis to find the best treatment for you and your needs.
How can I be sure that my ADHD symptoms aren't caused by sleep apnea?
Since ADHD and sleep apnea can have similar impacts on our daily lives, it’s valuable to determine if a sleep disorder is contributing to ADHD symptoms. Sleep disorders are common in people diagnosed with ADHD and may be reliably treated once identified. By getting a sleep study, you can establish whether you suffer from sleep apnea and begin to treat the condition.
With treatment for your sleep apnea, you may find that your ADHD symptoms are less pronounced in your day-to-day experiences. Addressing your sleep apnea may improve concentration, reduce fatigue, and improve your mood and temperament. Some signs of what was diagnosed as ADHD may resolve completely if sleep apnea was the cause all along.
Is my ADHD treatment contributing to my sleep apnea or other sleep disorders?
The stimulant medications that are often used to treat ADHD can negatively affect your ability to get quality sleep. You may experience difficulty falling asleep in the evenings or an inability to stay asleep through the night. If sleep apnea is reducing the quality of your sleep, these medications may worsen health outcomes and make it impossible to get a good night’s rest.
Talk to your doctor if you feel like your medication regimen is disrupting your sleep schedule. They may recommend a change in medication or dosage to promote restful nights. Sometimes, a simple change in the time of day that you take your medication can have significant benefits for sleep regularity.
Dr. Clinton Can Help You Regain Your Sleep Back
Unfortunately, it’s common for sleep apnea to be misdiagnosed as ADHD. This can lead to the wrong treatment and prescription which will not only fail to solve your problems but could negatively impact your health even further. At Dental Sleep Medicine, Dr. Clinton can provide you with the treatment you need to help you gain your sleep back. If you would like to learn more or would like to know how to schedule a sleep study, please give us a call at our Waxahachie office today at (972) 737-5337 or use the online form below to reach out to us by email.