Children diagnosed as ADHD may actually have sleep disorders

Children diagnosed as ADHD may actually have sleep disorders
Children diagnosed as ADHD may actually have sleep disorders

Children may be misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when they actually are sleep-deprived, says Dr. Hooman Shabatian, a sleep specialist from the Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a steady increase over several years in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD.

Experts are questioning whether children has been misdiagnosed and the symptoms are really caused by sleep disorders.

“General symptoms displayed by sleep-deprived children mimic the symptoms of ADHD,” Dr. Shabatian said in a press release.

“Children need adequate sleep or there are negative consequences to their development. A child may benefit from a sleep study to determine whether or not they have a sleep disorder or if they do, in fact, have ADHD.”

Sleep-deprived children may show classic indicators of ADHD such as being moody or rambunctious. Standard ADHD medications such as Ritalin, Concerta or Adderall are stimulants and contribute to insomnia, worsening the condition of children with a sleep disorder.

Some sleep-deprived children who display behavioral problems snore or have nighttime breathing complications such as sleep apnea. These children are 40 and 100 percent more likely to become hyperactive by age seven, one British study concluded.

“General symptoms displayed by sleep-deprived children mimic the symptoms of ADHD,” said Dr. Shabatian. “Children need adequate sleep or there are negative consequences to their development. A child may benefit from a sleep study to determine whether or not they have a sleep disorder or if they do, in fact, have ADHD.”

If the nighttime breathing and sleep issues are addressed in children with behavioral problems, their conduct will probably improve, says Karen Bonuck, a lead researcher from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York. Changes in these children include differences in internalizing behaviors such as anxiety and depression and external behavior such as hyperactivity.

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