Obstructive Sleep Apnea Mimics Attention Deficit Disorder

J Atten Disord. 2016 Jan;20(1):41-2. doi: 10.1177/1087054713479664. Epub 2013 Mar 25.


Attention deficit and hyperactivity are known possible symptoms or correlates of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). However, these associations may be missed in children, because children often fail to report excessive daytime sleepiness, and attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are common primary diagnoses in themselves. We report on a 17-year-old, slender, non-snoring male who presented to his pediatrician with a prolonged history of four complaints: inattention, fidgeting, frequent sinusitis, and somnolence. He was diagnosed with ADHD, while the somnolence, which often abated somewhat upon use of antibiotics for sinusitis, was attributed to the sinus infections. A later sleep study revealed OSA, and thorough additional testing proved that the original ADHD diagnosis was in error. All four conditions were allayed with proper use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Keywords: ADHD; obstructive sleep apnea.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / diagnosis
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / etiology*
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome