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ADHD and Sleep Disordered Breathing in Children

Current literature suggests a relationship between attention deficit hyperactivity

disorder (ADHD) and sleep disordered breathing (SDB) in children. ADHD affects 3-16% of

school children and is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. This often leads to school, social, and occupational dysfunction. SDB in children varies from less severe symptoms such as snoring, upper airway resistance syndrome, obstructive hypoventilation, and obstructive sleep apnea in more severe cases. Several studies suggest an elevated incidence of SDB with children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD ranging from 25 to 57%. The disrupted sleep associated with SDB could have an impact on brain development and affect cognitive function leading to symptoms in ADHD such as inattention and hyperactivity.

The study also analyzed whether an adenotonsillectomy (AT; an operation to remove

both the tonsils and adenoids and is the main treatment of SDB) can improve ADHD symptoms post-operation. While more research is still needed, the study findings suggest that ADHD symptoms are related to SDB and symptoms do improve after AT. Children presenting with ADHD symptoms should receive a SDB screening before medicating the ADHD symptoms.


Sedky, K., Bennett, D. S., & Carvalho, K. S. (2014). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and sleep disordered breathing in pediatric populations: A meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 18(4), 349-356.

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