Sleep Apnea & ADHD in Silver Spring, MD

Are Sleep Apnea and ADHD Connected?

When reviewing symptoms for both sleep apnea and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there are various similarities. Because of this, sleep apnea is often misdiagnosed as ADHD. In most cases, children are commonly misdiagnosed as they have a harder time expressing the symptoms they’re experiencing. 

At Silver Spring Sleep Solutions, Dr. Bassford can help patients obtain a proper diagnosis and provide personalized treatments that can help put an end to their symptoms.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD is a mental health condition that affects many people. Common symptoms of ADHD include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms can develop in early childhood and continue into adulthood. It can make everyday tasks a challenge and create persistent problems in daily life.

The Similarities Between Sleep Apnea and ADHD

When children experience disturbances in their lives, it can affect everyone in their family. Both ADHD and sleep apnea present with symptoms that are hard to miss. Similar symptoms between the two conditions include:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Impulsivity
  • Forgetfulness
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Daytime fatigue

Patients with sleep apnea experience brief moments where they stop breathing throughout the night. The most common cause of sleep apnea in children is enlarged tonsils or adenoids that partially block their airways during sleep. The next day, your child will feel restless and have difficulty concentrating. The most common cause of sleep apnea in adults is obesity.

While prescription medications prescribed for ADHD may mask some of the daytime symptoms, the underlying cause isn’t being addressed. When this happens, other health complications that stem from sleep apnea, like diabetes or heart problems, may present. What’s important is that every option is considered, so that the correct treatment is prescribed and you or your child can get a restful night’s sleep.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Not every sleep apnea symptom overlaps with ADHD. Symptoms found in patients suffering from just sleep apnea include:

  • Moments where breathing stops during sleep
  • Waking up choking or gasping for air
  • Labored breathing during sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Bed-wetting

Sleep apnea and ADHD are so closely linked that the U.S. guidelines recommend that children being evaluated for ADHD are also assessed for sleep apnea. 

If you or your child has ADHD or sleep apnea, contact our Silver Spring office, and Dr. Bassford will evaluate the symptoms to determine if a sleep study would be beneficial to provide a clear diagnosis.

Untreated Sleep Apnea May Worsen ADHD

In many cases, untreated sleep apnea can aggravate ADHD symptoms and make them worse. Sleep apnea causes individuals to suffer from poor sleep quality due to waking up throughout the night. Deep sleep is responsible for many essential functions, including organizing and processing the information we’ve learned and healing the body. However, those with sleep apnea may not reach that level of deep sleep, putting the brain in a constant state of exhaustion and worsening ADHD symptoms. 

If you suffer from sleep apnea and haven’t received treatment, contact our Silver Spring office at (301) 593-5500 to schedule an appointment.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ADHD cause sleep apnea?

ADHD itself doesn’t directly cause sleep apnea, but there can be a relationship between ADHD and sleep-disordered breathing, which includes conditions like sleep apnea. This could be due to various factors such as anatomical abnormalities, increased muscle tone in the upper airway, or fragmented sleep patterns.

Does lack of sleep make ADHD worse?

Yes, lack of sleep can make ADHD symptoms worse. Sleep deprivation can significantly impact attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, which are core symptoms of ADHD. When people with ADHD don’t get enough sleep or have poor sleep quality, it can lead to increased difficulty focusing, decreased cognitive performance, heightened impulsivity, restlessness, and more symptoms of ADHD.

Will treating sleep apnea help with ADHD symptoms?

Treating sleep apnea can potentially help improve ADHD symptoms. Sleep apnea can result in symptoms that overlap with ADHD. By effectively treating sleep apnea, those with ADHD may see a positive impact on their overall cognitive function, attention, and behavioral control, leading to potential improvements in their symptoms. However, sleep apnea treatment is not a replacement for ADHD treatment. Work with your doctor to properly manage your symptoms.

Does ADHD medication make sleep apnea worse?

ADHD medications have been associated with potential effects on sleep apnea, although the relationship isn’t fully understood. Stimulant medications, commonly used to treat ADHD, can potentially increase the risk of sleep-disordered breathing or exacerbate existing sleep apnea symptoms. However, the overall impact may vary depending on the medication dosage, individual response, and other risk factors for sleep apnea.

Find The Right Treatment at Silver Spring Sleep Solutions

Get the care you need at Silver Spring Sleep Solutions. Our sleep dentist will help you obtain both the right diagnosis and a proper treatment plan. To learn more about the connection between sleep apnea and ADHD, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Bassford, call our Silver Spring office at (301) 593-5500. You can also fill out our online contact form, and we’ll get back to you shortly.



10301 Georgia Ave, Suite 207
Silver Spring, MD 20902