If your teenager has symptoms of ADHD, you may be interested in learning that their symptoms might be due to obstructive sleep apnea instead. In fact, some doctors believe that obstructive sleep apnea is commonly misdiagnosed as ADHD. Fortunately, there are several tests that your teen can have to determine whether or not sleep apnea is the cause of their ADHD-like symptoms. Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea can include surgery and orthodontic appliances. Here’s what you need to know.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is one of several types of apnea. With this type of sleep apnea, there is a blockage somewhere in the airway. The blockage could be in the throat or due to the poor alignment of the teeth and jaws and a narrow dental arch. When the body is unable to breathe due to an obstruction in the airway, the person will sometimes stop breathing, then suddenly jolt to catch a breath of air. While they may not seem to wake up with each jolt, the body isn’t able to get a restful night’s sleep.
The most recognizable issue with this sleeping disorder is snoring. However, the inability to breathe properly through the night causes sleeplessness, which can lead to a wide range of problems that include the inability to focus, a short attention span, and periods of hyperactivity when the body and mind is overtired. Your teen may be easily agitated and have impulsive behavior due to their lack of sleep. Sounds like ADHD, doesn’t it?
More important, however, are the long-term effects that the lack of sleep can have, including heart disease and high blood pressure. Therefore, for your teen to be successful in their academics and any athletic activity they might participate in, as well as with their health in the future, it’s strongly recommended that you have your teen evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea and ADHD if no obstructions are found.
Getting a Diagnosis
Due to the possibility of the airway obstruction being in the oral cavity, you’ll want to take your teen to an orthodontist. Orthodontists are well-known for straightening teeth for appearance and bite improvements, but they also use orthodontic appliances to improve airways for people who have obstructive sleep apnea.
To begin the process of getting a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea, your teen will need to undergo a sleep study. He or she will be hooked up with devices that will monitor their breathing, heart rate, and brain waves. They will be watched carefully by a sleep-study nurse throughout the night, and the nurse will note their body positions and reactions in regular intervals as well as during episodes of breathing cessation.
If the results show that your teen does have this disorder, the orthodontist may request a second sleep study, only this time your teen will be given an orthodontic appliance to wear to confirm the diagnosis. Imaging may be recommended if the sleep apnea is severe or the initial examination of the oral cavity shows severe misalignment or narrow dental arches.
One treatment is the wearing of a continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) mask every night. However, for children and teenagers who face a life-long issue with sleep apnea, parents may want to consider surgical options instead for a more permanent result. The type of surgery that may be recommended will depend on the anatomy that is causing the obstruction, such as soft tissue–removal surgery or skeletal surgery.
Orthodontic appliances in the form of night-time mouth guards are another option and can also be used in conjunction with surgery. If your teen is given a mouth guard, you’ll need to be sure that he or she keeps the appliance clean and wears it every night. Hopefully, after several nights of restful sleep, their ADHD-like symptoms will improve.Read More