Childhood ADHD Or Sleep Disorder? What You Need to Know

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Does your child have ADHD? Moms are speaking out about their children suffering from a sleep disorder that’s being misdiagnosed as ADHD.

As parents, we worry about our kids before they are born and we don’t stop. Studies show we will continue to worry a lot about them even once they are all grown up. One common thing parents worry about is whether their child might have ADHD. Now moms are speaking out online about the ADHD diagnoses their kids received and the shock of finding out it was a sleep disorder all along.

Childhood ADHD Or Sleep Disorder? What You Need to Know

Childhood ADHD Or Sleep Disorder? What You Need to Know.

ADHD is a mental disorder that occurs most frequently in children. 6.4 million kids between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed. (2014 numbers) The average age of diagnosis is 7 years old. First symptoms appear between 3 and 6 years old.

It’s mind blowing that 6.3% of American children have the diagnosis! It may be even higher than in the 2014 study.

Children with ADHD have problems with the following:

  • Working memory – can’t remember what you told them to do
  • Flexible thinking – the ability to think of things in different ways
  • Managing emotions – moody
  • Self-regulation – explosive outbursts
  • Organization and planning – trouble getting school work finished

Now, look at the symptoms of sleep deprivation in children.

The National Sleep Foundation says, “Children and adults behave differently as a result of sleepiness. Adults usually become sluggish when tired while children tend to overcompensate and speed up. For this reason, sleep deprivation is sometimes confused with ADHD in children. Children may also be moody, emotionally explosive, and/or aggressive as a result of sleepiness. In a study involving 2,463 children aged 6-15, children with sleep problems were more likely to be inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive, and display oppositional behaviors.”

STOP THE PRESSES! Read that again. That’s a pretty important nugget of information for parents of ADHD kiddos.

Becky Mansfield of Your Modern Family Shared Her Story

She writes about a phone conversation she had with her husband about their son. “He is just not himself anymore – he is getting upset about little things, he is grumpy all the time, and his behavior is just… off.   He is misbehaving more & more. I don’t know what to do to help him.”

Her son, she said, had changed from a happy, content baby to “a very unhappy, unpredictable, grumpy, hot-tempered child. He was now VERY quick to lose his temper, quick to get angry, and then quick to feel embarrassed when he realized that he had acted that way. His behavior issues were growing.”

Long story short, she became her son’s relentless advocate and as a result, they wound up having a sleep study done. Thank goodness they did because it turned out it wasn’t ADHD after all!

He had Central Sleep Apnea. The condition is a stop/start pattern of breathing when sleeping. The brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.

All the problems their little boy was struggling with could be directly attributed to what was happening at night while he slept… or tried to.

Here are the symptoms of CSA, according to The Mayo Clinic:

  • Observed episodes of stopped breathing or abnormal breathing patterns during sleep
  • Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Shortness of breath that’s relieved by sitting up
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Chest pain at night
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes
  • Morning headaches
  • Snoring
  • Lower tolerance for exercise

(CSA shouldn’t be confused with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which happens when something is obstructing the airway.)

What to do if you’re worried about your child.

First, read Becky’s story. Her story is detailed and she is completely open about everything that happened. I have no doubt you’ll likely find a lot of answers there. She references a study that found 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD actually have a treatable sleep disorder.

Next, talk to your pediatrician. If they don’t take seriously your concern about potential apnea rather than ADHD, find a new one. Doctors should respect your instincts as a parent. You’re the one with “boots on the ground.”

Read, ask questions, do your research and talk to experts. We hope it works out well and that your child gets skillful treatment from a great doctor, whether it’s ADHD or CSA.

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