ADHD and Sleep Apnea: Understanding the Connection

December 22, 2022
Woman with ADHD and obstructive sleep apnea, struggling to concentrate

More than 6 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD, and millions of adults are also struggle with this condition. Many cases of it remain unrecognized due to things like a lack of awareness or a patient’s reluctance to seek professional care. ADHD can have significant adverse effects on an individual’s quality of life, and its effects are often exacerbated by the presence of sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Read on below to learn more about the link between OSA and ADHD. You will also discover how OSA treatment may be able to reduce problems associated with ADHD.

OSA and ADHD Often Go Hand in Hand

Many people with ADHD also suffer from sleep disorders. Insomnia is the most common issue, but sleep disordered breathing (SDB) also occurs frequently. In fact, according to one estimate, about one-third of individuals with ADHD also experience SDB. Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes pauses in breathing throughout the night, falls under the umbrella of SDB. The reason for the connection between these conditions remains unknown.

Treatment for OSA May Reduce ADHD Symptoms

OSA can cause a number of symptoms that are similar to those associated with ADHD. For example, OSA can make it difficult to concentrate, pose challenges with listening to instructions, make it difficult to stay organized, and lead to forgetfulness. In fact, in some cases, OSA or other sleep disorders might be misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Whether an individual’s symptoms stem from ADHD, OSA, or both, sleep apnea treatment may be able to help. There are a number of ways to address OSA, such as CPAP therapy or an oral appliance (most patients find that an oral appliance is easier to tolerate). These devices prevent disordered breathing during sleep, leading to greatly improved sleep quality.

How Effective Is OSA Treatment for ADHD Symptoms?

Here are a few encouraging notes that highlight OSA treatment’s ability to improve ADHD symptoms:

  • In some young patients, treatment for SDB breathing has reduced the need for the stimulants that are usually used to address ADHD in children.
  • A professional literature review of six interventional studies found that in all of the studies considered, OSA treatment resulted in improvements in behavior, attention, and overall ADHD symptoms.

What You Can Do

If you or a loved one struggles with symptoms of ADHD, it may be wise to undergo a sleep study. This noninvasive test can determine whether OSA or another sleep disorder is present. After a qualified physician reviews your results, you can begin to explore treatment options. It may not be long before you are sleeping better and enjoying an improved overall quality of life!

Meet the Sleep Apnea Expert

Dr. Kenneth Mogell is a sleep dentist with more than 10 years of experience in helping patients conquer OSA via oral appliance therapy.  He and our team are proud to serve the communities of Boca Raton, Melbourne, and Vero Beach. To learn more about our practice, reach out to any of our convenient locations or call us at 561-353-5252.