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June 7th, 2010
09:28 AM ET

Suspected ADHD could be a sleep disorder

By Georgiann Caruso
CNN Medical Associate Producer

Symptoms that look much like attention-deficit disorder  or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children could be a misdiagnosed sleep disorder.  And according to research presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, about 18 percent of patients in the study were at risk for sleep-disordered breathing, which includes sleep apnea and snoring.

Dr. Rose Sheats from the University of North Carolina, who specializes in orthodontics, helped to lead the research.  Sheats said the take-home message is, "You can't rely on the type of face a child has, to assume that they are or are not at risk for sleep-disordered breathing."

Researchers studied 100 children ages 7-17.  Slightly more than half were female, and the group was three-quarters Caucasian.  The scientists used detailed questionnaires and also looked at race, age, gender, body mass index and skull X-rays to see the jaw.  Their results showed no associations with these factors, making the condition hard to detect in the children.

"We as orthodontists and dentists who see children regularly have an opportunity to recognize the possibility that a child is at risk for sleep apnea or disordered breathing," Sheats said.  "If you treat it, many of these conditions can be reversible at a young age."

For parents, Sheats said,  it's important for your child's dentist or orthodontist to be asking a few simple but relevant questions about their sleep pattern and behaviors, including snoring, inattention in class, misbehaving in class or waking up having a hard time breathing in the middle of the night.  The child can then be referred for a sleep study and seen by a physician.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.