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Sleep Apnea Causes Health and Cognitive Issues with Children

Posted On June 12, 2015
June 12, 2015

It has been known that there is a connection between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). A study was reported from the Tucson Children’s Assessment a few years ago consisted of 263 children over the course of a five-year period with the help of parental rating scales. Researchers reported that children with an occurrence of sleep apnea were four to five times more likely to have problems with their behavior, while children with more persistent sleep apnea were six times more likely to have behavior issues. Children with persistent sleep apnea were also seven times more likely to have learning difficulties reported by their parents and three times more likely to receive average or below average grades in school.

Suddenly the issue is getting a lot of attention again because of the larger scale of testing. Results are proving that 1-4 percent of America children have sleep apnea. That number is mostly likely very low since most cases are still undiagnosed and the obesity rate among children grows higher every day. As for ADHD, “As many as 25 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD may in fact have obstructive sleep apnea,” says Tracy Nasca, executive director of the American Sleep Apnea Association.

US News recently did a report highlighting new concerns for children with ADHD. They mentioned how the biggest problem is with the diagnosis of a child with either ADHD or Sleep Apnea. Diagnosing sleep disorders in children requires special expertise because youngsters respond differently than adults when it comes to a lack of sleep, says Amber McPhee, a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Sleep Center at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“Adults with sleep apnea may feel sluggish during the day,” McPhee says. “But children with sleep apnea are quite active and may even be hyperactive. They may also start experiencing learning difficulties at school because they can’t remember things as well.”

Dr. Rochelle Goldberg, director of sleep medicine services at Main Line Health and an associate professor at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia mentions, “Unfortunately some of these kids get mislabeled by their well-meaning teachers as having ADHD and start taking medications they don’t need.” She advises parents to seek the expertise of a pediatrician and pediatric sleep specialist before assuming their child has ADHD.

Now physicians are starting question if some of the ADHD diagnosis could have been sleep apnea and if the ADHD medications that had been prescribed was even necessary. Further testing will need to be done to get the full picture of how these two conditions work together. For now, if you have a loved one who is diagnosed with ADHD, you may consider getting a sleep study done to see if the child has sleep apnea as well.

If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, been diagnosed or would like to find out how you can avoid the high risk of developing other conditions, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a consultation.



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