ADHD Sleep Apnea

The Link Between ADHD and Sleep Apnea

ADHD and sleep apnea often coexist, with sleep apnea exacerbating ADHD symptoms such as inattention and impulsivity. The disrupted sleep patterns caused by sleep apnea can significantly affect cognitive functions and behavior in individuals with ADHD. Understanding this relationship is crucial for effective management. Addressing sleep apnea through medical interventions, such as CPAP machines, alongside ADHD treatments, can lead to improved sleep quality and symptom reduction. Combining these approaches is key for enhancing overall well-being in individuals affected by both conditions.

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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Considering the struggles I have with my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, I've been thinking a lot about how its symptoms affect our sleep quality 😴. Come to think of it, even when there are moments when I sleep long enough, there always seems to be this daytime fatigue. In other words, I may have slept for 7 or so hours, but it appears the quality is not okay - I am not well rested 😩.  There are also times when my hyperactive brain is at its peak, and I'll have difficulty hitting the bed.

ADHD and Sleep issues are common

That's why I think it's hard for some adults with ADHD to maintain their sleeping habits as they go through different sleep patterns because of their ADHD-related struggles. 

So one day, I looked up ADHD & Sleep and discovered that there are many everyday things related to them. Reports indicate that both ADHD and sleep problems can occur together 🤔. In fact, a study even pointed out that 25% to 50% of ADHD patients can experience sleep problems. Moreover, according to the same study, those who do not get enough sleep are more likely to report on ADHD symptoms. 

However, as I continued to read about this ADHD Comorbidity, I learned that many types of sleep disorders could give poor sleep quality to someone with ADHD.

Most Common Sleep Disorders That Can Be Comorbid with ADHD

As I was curious about how they (ADHD and sleep disorders) are connected, I discovered that there are different sleep disorders that can be found in people with ADHD. When not taken seriously, these sleep problems may not only produce a poor night's sleep but can also aggravate common symptoms of ADHD, like difficulty concentrating or trouble focusing on assigned tasks 😢.

Most Common Comorbid Sleep Disorders with ADHD

To prevent yourself from having disrupting sleep habits and help lower the risk of occurrence of some sleep disorders, it's best to be equipped with the knowledge about the different sleep disorders that might co-occur with ADHD 👍. Here are five most common sleep disorders that may coexist with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:


Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good-quality sleep 🛌. Hence, when you have insomnia, you may toss and turn in your bed, have frequent awakenings, or have a complete 7 to 9 hours of sleep and still feel tired in the morning because the quality is not good 🥱. 


Narcolepsy can sometimes be considered by others as the opposite of Insomnia, however, please note that it is not. Those who are diagnosed with Narcolepsy may not be able to control their urge to stay awake, causing them to fall asleep during the day (sudden attacks of sleep), even when they already had slept enough. This sleep disorder may cause difficulty in performing daily activities and can also worsen symptoms of ADHD.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder is a sleep disruption condition where a person's body clock is not synced with their environment. This can cause daytime sleepiness even when there are many things to do or a sudden urge to stay awake, even at bedtime 💤.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Do you experience sleep problems because of an irresistible urge to move your legs 🦵? Restless legs syndrome may have something to do with this. The symptoms often occur late in the afternoon or during evening hours. This can cause discomfort in your legs, toes, arms, and chest. It may be accompanied by a tingling sensation or general aching, making it hard for someone, including those with ADHD, to fall asleep.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders that can affect someone with ADHD intensively. Sleep Apnea is a disorder where breathing stops or becomes shallow and disrupted as you sleep 😪. This can cause snoring, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, and even headaches.

The population of Sleep Apnea cases around the world
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More on Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea sufferers may be experiencing Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) specifically. This is a condition that causes breathing to become blocked or restricted during sleep because the muscle structure supporting our throat soft tissues gets too relaxed. This can be dangerous as oxygen levels in their blood can drop, potentially increasing the risk for severe issues, like heart attack, stroke, and other health risks.

What is sleep apnea?

When our body receives a signal that it's not getting enough oxygen, our brain will tell us to wake up abruptly 👀. This can be highly disruptive to our sleep and makes it hard for someone with ADHD to stay asleep or have a restful night of sleep.

Research shows that sleep apnea may be influenced by diet and lifestyle choices, such as alcohol consumption, smoking, and activities that may lead to obesity 🍟 🍺. Our lack of regular exercise, unhealthy eating habits, or even our sleeping pattern can contribute to developing this sleep disorder. It's essential to try and make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the chances of suffering from OSA or any other sleep-related condition 👌.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

As I was reading through the diagnosis details for Sleep Apnea, I started to notice that some symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and sleep apnea problems are similar.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms that are similar with ADHD

One of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is feeling tired during the day, even after having enough sleep. Likewise, some people with ADHD may start showing signs of daytime sleepiness and feeling fatigued due to their hyperactive symptoms.

Irritability is one of the many ADHD symptoms that can affect us, just like how sleep apnea would. Since we don't have enough sleep because we tend to stop breathing, it makes us feel more agitated and aggravated than usual.

Difficulty concentrating is one of the many adult ADHD-like symptoms that people with sleep apnea also tend to experience. Since we don't have enough restful sleep, it makes it hard for us to focus on tasks.

Is it an ADHD Symptom or an Untreated Sleep Apnea Sign?

Since there are symptoms that can be confused with one another, going to a health professional 🧑‍⚕️ should be your first step to determine whether your condition is ADHD or untreated sleep apnea.

It's important to get the proper diagnosis and treatment for both conditions as they can be managed with lifestyle changes, medications, or device-assisted therapies such as a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine :mask. The machine continuously delivers oxygenated air into your airways through a tube and mask. 

If you struggle with sleep problems, it's essential to speak to your doctor about the possibility of having a sleep disorder. Treating any underlying conditions can help improve your overall quality of life and help reduce the symptoms associated with ADHD and sleep apnea.

Call for help if you are struggling with sleep apnea and adhd

ADHD and Sleep Apnea FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when your breathing stops and restarts multiple times while you are sleeping. One specific type, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, happens when the muscles supporting the soft tissues in our throat relaxes, causing a blockage or obstruction.

Does ADHD cause sleep apnea?

There’s no direct relationship between ADHD and sleep apnea. However, some ADHD symptoms may contribute to some of the factors that may increase your risk for sleep apnea. For instance, you may drink alcohol excessively and smoke (known risk factors for sleep apnea) due to your impulsivity or as a way to relieve the struggles you have with ADHD.

As a whole, can ADHD give you sleeping problems?

Some reports indicate that up to half of the population of people with ADHD also have sleep troubles. The exact connection is unknown, but symptoms may contribute. For example, being hyperactive at night may produce difficulty sleeping.

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