ADHD and Sleep Problems – What is the connection?

ADHD and Sleep

ADHD is a relatively common neurodevelopmental disorder which affects approximately 5% of people, both children and adults. Those who are affected by ADHD tend to experience inattention, hyperactivity, forgetfulness, poor impulse control and are distracted easily. Each of these criteria may manifest differently and in some cases it’s believed that there’s a positive relationship between those who suffer from ADHD and sleep disorders.

“Children with OSA are frequently misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”

Sleep-Disordered Breathing and School Performance in Children OSA is 6-9 folds increased in poorly performing first-graders

  • 297 first grade students whose school performance was in the lowest 10th
  • Parental questionnaire + one night home recording
  • Results: 54/297 (18%) had Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • 24 children had tonsillectomy & adenoidectomy. 30 parents preferred no further treatment.
  • Second grade school grades were collected.
  • Overall mean grades during the second grade increased from 2.43 +/- 0.17 to 2.87 +/- 0.19 in the treated ground, although no significant changes occurred in untreated group  (2.44 +/- 0.13 to 2.46 +/- 0.15)

Conclusions: sleep-associated gas exchange abnormalities (SAGEA) is frequently present in poorly performing first-grade students in whom it adversely affects learning performance. The data suggests that a subset of children with behavioural and learning disabilities could have SAGEA and may benefit from prospective medical evaluation and treatment.

Behavioral Consequences of OSA

  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggressiveness
  • Reduced freedom from distractibility
  • Learning problems
  • Social isolation
  • Withdrawal
  • Mood changes
  • Memory loss
  • Depression

Children Specific Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

If your child has any of the symptoms listed below they could be one of the millions of children who are currently undiagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS)

  • Mouth Breathing
  • Restlessness during sleep
  • Sleeping in odd positions
  • Periods of not breathing
  • Night Terrors
  • Mood Swings
  • Poor Concentration
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Bedwetting
  • Headaches
  • Frequent Infections
  • Teeth Grinding
  • Snoring

The Importance of Treatment

If left untreated SLEEP Disorder can lead to significant impairment in interpersonal, vocation and cognitive skills, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. It is very important that children who experience signs of Sleep Disorder Breathing (restlessness during sleep, hyperactivity, inattention or poor concentration) be properly evaluated.

At the TMJ & Sleep Therapy Centre Sydney, we encourage any concerned parents or sufferers of sleep problems to come in for a comprehensive assessment. This process will allow us to determine whether any of the described symptoms could in fact be the root of a larger sleep disorder, in which case we can tailor a treatment plan to suit the individual. To learn more about sleep dysfunctions please view our website here.

For further information and to get a better understanding of just how sleep apnea may be affecting someone you love we recommend checking out the following A Current Affair video


Gozal D, Pediatrics 1998

Ali et al., 1993, 1994, 1996 ; Leach et al., 1992 ; Ferreira et al., 2000; Chervin et al., 2002

About the Author

Dr Louis Chan

Dr Louis Chan has a special interest in holistic dentistry and is a certified provider of Myobrace, Insignia, Rapid Smiles and Invisalign.

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