ADHD or sleep disorder: Is the diagnosis correct?

Studies show 1-in-10 kids have been diagnosed with ADHD

WINTER PARK, Fla. - Studies show one-in-ten kids have been diagnosed with ADHD and according to the CDC that number is trending upward.

The common treatment--powerful medications.

But what if some of those kids are actually suffering from a different disorder all together? A sleeping disorder.

Kids with ADHD tend to lack focus and have irritability during the day. They are impulsive, fidget, and can be forgetful.

The same or similar symptoms can be seen in kids with sleeping disorders.

Dr. Akinyemi Ajayi, pediatric sleep disorder specialist in Winter Park, says that's the problem.

"Unfortunately, this is something we see pretty much everyday," Ajayi says. "I've seen patients come in on these drugs that did not need the medications. They needed a good nights sleep, they needed better quality sleep."

Ajayi says many pediatricians simply aren't asking the right questions when they see patients. He points to the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal which says pediatricians should ask about sleep problems at every visit.  

He says simply asking the question, "does your child snore," opens the dialogue for talking about sleep. A problem he says often goes unnoticed.

He calls children's sleeping disorders, "orphan disorders," in that they happen while the child is usually alone.

"Most kids, they suffer with their sleep disorders alone. If they snore, they snore alone in their room. If they stop breathing, they stop breathing alone in their room, typically with no witness.

Dr. Floyd Livingston, Division Chief of Pediatric Pulminology and Sleep Medicine at Nemours Children's Clinic agrees.

"We have patients come in almost everyday with those issues, where they have been struggling with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, kids being on multiple treatments or therapies and not having response," Livingston said.

He admits many of these symptoms are intertwined. making diagnosis that much more difficult. He says if there is any doubt a sleep study is recommended.

Dr. Carl Barr, Child Neurologist at Florida Hospital cautions that an ADHD diagnosis is very real and much more common than sleep disorders masquerading as ADHD. 

"The symptoms of sleep disorders can look very much like ADHD and we do see that ,"he says, "But I think that if you're being evaluated by a skilled medical practitioner who's familiar with sleep issues as well as they symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, that it's not a high probability that you are going to have the two diagnosis confused.  So again having proper evaluation is essential to getting the right treatment."

For more information on sleep disorder symptoms, click here.

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