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Can Sleep Apnea Cause ADHD Symptoms?

ADHD is a condition that can often go undiagnosed in an individual for years — sometimes even their entire life. Sleep disorders also often go hand-in-hand with ADHD, and these disorders can sometimes worsen the symptoms or cause ADHD to be missed in a diagnosis. One of these sleep disorders is sleep apnea, which can drastically affect sleep quality. But what is the relationship between these two conditions? In this blog, we’ll breakdown the symptoms of sleep apnea and ADHD and discuss whether there is a link between the two. Read on to learn more.

Understanding ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can occur in both children and adults. It often affects an individual’s ability to focus and concentrate. Other common symptoms include impulsivity and hyperactivity. These symptoms can cause difficulties in school, professional settings, relationships and other everyday aspects of life.

While we don’t know the exact cause of this disorder, it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental and neurological factors. There is also no cure for it, but there is a treatment available that makes the condition more manageable. A combination of treatment methods can help individuals mitigate the symptoms of ADHD and live happier, more fulfilling lives.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes interrupted breathing during sleep. These interruptions can lower sleep quality and make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult. If left untreated, sleep apnea can also contribute to a myriad of other health conditions down the line. 

The two most common types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common of the two and occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airway, causing breathing interruptions during sleep. CSA is a bit more complicated, as it happens when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. 

Both types of sleep apnea cause pauses in breathing throughout the night, which leads to frequent awakenings or incomplete sleep cycles. Common symptoms of this sleeping disorder may include loud snoring, trouble breathing during sleep, headaches, difficulty concentrating, excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue and more. 

Now that we understand a bit more about ADHD and sleep apnea as individual conditions let’s take a look at how they might be linked.

Exploring the Link Between Sleep Apnea & ADHD Symptoms

As mentioned, it’s not uncommon for individuals who have ADHD to also be diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can feed into ADHD symptoms and cause a vicious cycle. While each disorder is distinct, and someone can easily be diagnosed with one without the other, research suggests there may be some overlap between the two.

It makes sense that untreated sleep apnea could exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Poor quality sleep can lead to difficulties with concentration, attention and mood. For those suffering from ADHD, it can already be hard to manage in these areas. A lack of sleep may not be a cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but it can be a contributor to symptoms.

Sleep Deprivation and Cognitive Function

Sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on cognitive function for anyone. If you have a neurological condition like ADHD that already affects cognitive function, sleep disorders like sleep apnea can make things even worse. When you don’t get enough sleep, you may impair executive function and impair your ability to plan, organize, focus, retain information and make decisions.

Sleep deprivation can cause these symptoms even if you don’t have ADHD. ADHD sufferers may also exhibit additional symptoms such as increased impulsivity and hyperactivity if they are dealing with both disorders.

What Does the Research Say?

Research suggests that there could be a link between sleep disorders and ADHD, with a high prevalence of sleep disorders present in individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Sleep apnea can also be seen in ADHD patients, and addressing sleep apnea symptoms can have a positive impact on the symptoms of ADHD. By effectively managing sleep apnea, individuals with ADHD may be able to focus more and experience an overall improvement in cognitive function.

Of course, as with anything related to ADHD, more research is essential to fully understand the intricacies of the link between ADHD and sleep apnea. Regardless, current studies indicate that diagnosing sleep apnea or any sleep disorder is important if someone has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Addressing these symptoms may improve the quality of life for the individual. With that being said, let’s dive into the diagnosis and treatment options that are available for those suffering from both sleep apnea and ADHD.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

If you suspect you have ADHD or sleep apnea, it’s important to seek a proper diagnosis from a primary care provider. Getting diagnosed will allow your health care provider to develop an appropriate treatment plan to address your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Both ADHD and sleep apnea require a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose, so it’s best to make an appointment with your provider as soon as possible.

A diagnosis of ADHD typically involves an assessment that considers your symptoms, medical history and more. Symptoms such as trouble focusing, impulsivity, hyperactivity, disorganization and poor time management skills are typically good indicators of ADHD. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, your health care provider will likely recommend a treatment plan that involves a combination of the following:

  • Behavioral therapy - Therapy can be a great way to help modify behavior and teach an individual strategies to cope with the symptoms of ADHD. Cognitive behavioral therapy specifically has been shown to lead to positive outcomes for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 
  • Lifestyle changes -Your doctor may recommend several lifestyle modifications that may help manage your ADHD symptoms. These changes may include diet, exercise, sleep habits, stress management techniques and more.
  • Medication - If appropriate, your health care provider may prescribe medication. ADHD medication may help mitigate the symptoms and give individuals more focus throughout the day.

Sleep apnea also requires an assessment to diagnose. If you sleep with a partner or share a room with someone, they may have noticed some of the symptoms of sleep apnea that you can report to your primary care provider. Your health care provider will likely provide you with an at-home sleep test that can monitor certain metrics and help your provider diagnose the source of your sleep issues. If the issue is found to be sleep apnea, treatment usually involves the following:

  • CPAP machine - A continuous positive airway pressure machine can help keep your airways open throughout the night, allowing you to get a more restful night’s sleep.
  • Lifestyle changes - Certain lifestyle changes can help combat sleep apnea. These changes may include losing weight, avoiding alcohol and nicotine, changing your sleep habits and more.
  • Surgery - In some cases, your primary care provider may determine that surgery is the best route for your sleep apnea. However, this is rarer and is often the last method of treatment utilized.

Remember, each individual is unique, and treatment plans may need to be tailored accordingly. Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek support throughout the diagnosis and treatment process. Your primary care provider will monitor your treatment on an ongoing basis and can make adjustments as necessary.

The Importance of a Comprehensive Evaluation

s mentioned, a comprehensive evaluation will be needed for both ADHD and sleep apnea diagnosis. It’s important to remember that the symptoms of sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can sometimes overlap with the symptoms of ADHD and cause the latter disorder to go undiagnosed. By conducting a thorough evaluation of your symptoms and continually monitoring your treatment progress, your primary care provider will be able to effectively improve your quality of life and mitigate the symptoms of any condition you may be dealing with.

You can expect your evaluation to involve an assessment of symptoms, a review of your medical history, and possibly input from others who have observed your behavior. By conducting such a thorough evaluation, you can ensure you get a treatment plan specifically tailored to you and your needs. It also allows your primary care provider to identify how your conditions may be affecting each other and take steps to mitigate this overlap.

If you feel like you’re suffering from symptoms of ADHD, sleep apnea or any other condition, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a primary care provider today.

Connect with a doctor or online provider

To get a proper diagnosis for ADHD, sleep apnea or any other condition, your first step will be to make an appointment with your primary care provider. You can see an in-person provider, or you can also connect with an online provider if you prefer. Online providers make it as convenient and easy as possible to receive care from anywhere. Simply book an appointment time that works best for you and speak to a health care professional from the comfort of your couch. No waiting rooms, commutes or trips to the doctor are needed. If you’re interested in online care, Circle Medical can help.

Do You Need Tonsil Removal?

In some cases, tonsil removal will be the recommended treatment option for individuals experiencing recurrent or severe tonsillitis episodes. If an individual is constantly battling with tonsillitis, tonsil removal may be the best option.

Tonsil removal is a surgical procedure that requires a recovery period, so it’s often the last recommended treatment when other treatment options aren’t working. A medical professional will be able to determine the best path of treatment for you and if tonsil removal surgery is appropriate.

When to Consult a Medical Professional

If you are experiencing symptoms of tonsillitis, it’s best to consult a health care provider. They will be able to diagnose the type of tonsillitis and the cause so they can provide you with the best treatment possible. While viral tonsillitis doesn’t typically require medical intervention, it’s best to rule out bacterial infections or other conditions through a visit to your doctor.

Still, the research into the relationship between dopamine and ADHD is promising. As time goes on and more studies are conducted, we will hopefully gain a more concrete understanding of the relationship between the brain and ADHD, allowing us to identify the exact causes someday.

Connect with a doctor or online provider

You can always schedule an in-person appointment with a primary care provider, or you can enjoy the convenience of telehealth if you prefer to receive care from the comfort of your home. Full-stack primary care clinics like Circle Medical offer both options, so you can get care the way you want. Connect with a primary care provider if you’re feeling the symptoms of tonsillitis.

Book an appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today!

Circle Medical is a full-stack primary care provider that offers both in-person and online healthcare services so you receive care the way you prefer. Setting up your first appointment online is a great way to get the ball rolling for your care, as you can speak to a healthcare professional as soon as today. Book your same-day appointment with Circle Medical now to get started!

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