Irritability, difficulty paying attention in school, mood disorders and trouble getting along with others are hallmarks of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But what many might not suspect is that these symptoms are also indicators of troubling sleeping.
Samantha Ebner, 31, of Cameron, Wisconsin is one of many moms sharing stories about how treating her child for a sleep disorder ended up had a direct impact on her daughter's day-to-day temperament.
Aubrey, 4, had her tonsils removed a few months ago and her family has already seen a world of difference – not just in her quality of sleep, but in her mood and behavior.
“She was always just very wired a little bit, and you can tell she can focus a lot easier now because she’s thinking more clearly with the rest,” Ebner told InsideEdition.com. “She’s easier to manage sometimes. She didn’t have any bad reports from school [or] day care, but she seems like she’s a little more collected overall.”
While Aubrey is too young to have received any formal diagnosis, Ebner said her daughter has always seemed to have more energy than most and trouble paying attention. She has always had an issue with snoring, ever since she was a baby.
“She was constantly snoring, so loud she sounded like a grown man,” Ebner explained. “You could hear her across the house. Every time you’d look at her, it looked like she was fighting very hard to breathe.”
Sometimes, they would hear her stop breathing in the middle of the night and wake up.
“It kind of occurred to us that she wasn’t going through the normal sleep patterns that she should be,” Ebner explained.
They suspected that as a result of poor quality of sleep, Aubrey was constantly choking on her food and having trouble potty training at night.
Dr. Michelle Caraballo, pediatric pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at Children’s Health and UT Southwestern Medical Center, suggested that any concerned parent should get a sleep study for their children.
“Kids can’t describe their symptoms the same way adults can, and they have a hard time verbalizing their symptoms,” Caraballo explained.
She also explained that trouble sleeping also has different symptoms in children than it does in adults. While adults may experience fatigue throughout the day, children can have behavioral issues, mood disorders, irritability, trouble getting along with others, and problems at school.
“I see a lot of kids that are misdiagnosed with ADHD or ADD when their behavioral issues or their difficulty focusing or struggling in school tend to be caused by poor quality sleep,” Caraballo. “We see some teenagers just called lazy or chalked up to not sleeping enough at night when they have some other sleep condition that’s causing the disruption or poor quality sleep.”
While snoring loudly is the most common manifestation of sleep apnea in kids, Caraballo recommended parents watch out for other signs of disruptive sleep, including pauses in breathing and an obstruction in nasal airflow.
Ebner and her husband lost their middle child, Andrew, to SIDS at 10 weeks old, so they didn't hesitate to take Aubrey to the pediatrician, who eventually said her breathing patterns and trouble sleeping could have to do with her enlarged tonsils. They had them removed, and voila!
"Now, she’s actually waking up sometimes on her own in a good mood,” Ebner said. "It's made a huge difference for us, for her and for our family dynamic."