Acid Reflux, ADHD & Sleep-Disordered Breathing in Children

Wait, There’s Even MORE!

Sleep-disordered breathing can be expressed anywhere on the severity spectrum between “simple snoring” to the daddy-of-them-all OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). These conditions, and everything in between, are sleep-disordered breathing issues that affect your overall health.

By this time you are seeing that sleep-disordered breathing creates chaos, not just in the infant, not just in the older child, not just in the young adult, not just in older adult, but it selfishly affects the entire human age spectrum. Sleep-disordered breathing doesn’t limit itself to any one age group, ethnicity, gender or body type. It’s not picky. In fact, it is really difficult to think of many other diseases that are so indiscriminate.

Let’s start with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In a nutshell a person with ADHD may be disorganized; have difficulty focusing, difficulty paying attention to details and make careless mistakes; he/she may have trouble staying on topic or become forgetful. Just remember the last time that you were sleep deprived. You likely experienced some or all these symptoms.


In children the symptoms may be similar, their school performance may suffer; their behavior and​ attention in school is questionable; they can become irritable and very often they present with the hyperactive component of ADHD. Have you ever seen a child that stays up past their bedtime? They just get crazy and wild. They are irrational and unable to follow directions and then BOOM they knock right out. Just like that. How is a child with ADHD treated with a typical drug prescription? With a stimulant!


Wait a minute…won’t that make them more hyper? Intuitively that is what you would think but in actuality, it wakes the child up and he becomes more manageable; more human as one might say. This can be illustrated best by reading Connor’s Story, which you’ll read in chapter 24.

Not all children with ADHD need drugs but likely more than 50% are simply sleep deprived. We could treat more than 50% diagnosed cases of childhood ADHD with just proper sleep!

Are sleepless nights taking a toll on your child's well-being?

Get the expert help you need today! Call BCOH , the trusted authority in sleep medicine. Contact us now and discover the difference quality sleep can make!

Here is another thought. ADHD can be caused by sleep deprivation and by now you realize that sleep-disordered breathing can deprive you of much needed restorative sleep. There is strong evidence that now links sleep-disordered breathing to dementia and Alzheimer’s (the end game for brain function).


What is the number one nutrient we need? What is the nutrient that if we are without for a few minutes or more can cause death? It is oxygen and proper breathing supplies us with that oxygen. IDEAL breathing supplies ideal oxygen for the entire body and brain but there is something that we can refer to as an “oxygen diet”.

We may receive just enough Oxygen to stay alive and function, but it may not be enough to optimize the much needed demands for our bodies to thrive. If you have a sleep disorder then might you be on an “oxygen diet”. Could night after night of this “diet” be harmful? Could night after night of oxygen deprivation be harmful to an adult’s developed brain or a child’s developing brain? The answer is an obvious YES!

Now let’s talk about headaches. By no means should we think that every headache is caused by sleep-disordered breathing. However, they can occur more frequently when you have a breathing problem. Let’s explore.



Chances are that headaches that are experienced upon waking in the morning are related to a sleep-disordered breathing problem. In fact, in many studies it is shown that lack of REM sleep (our deep dreamy sleep) is shown to increase the incidence of migraine headaches.

Sleep-disordered breathing causes pauses in what we would consider normal breathing. They can last longer than 10 seconds causing the oxygen level in our blood to drop or they can be short pauses with little affect on our oxygen levels. What the pauses have in common is that they can lead to more frequent disturbance to your sleep and fragmentation of your precious sleep cycles. Poor sleep quality is the result.

Your inability to get deep sleep can stress your entire nervous system and increase it’s sensitivity. This may be your involuntary nervous system over-reacting to stimuli. You may experience migraine headaches as a result. A person suffering a hangover has similar symptoms of nausea, vomiting, brain fog and sensitivity to light and sound. A night of alcohol indulgence also causes compromised breathing as they sleep it off. Ever seen how loudly an individual may snore after a night of consumption?

Many people think a large majority of sinus headaches are from disturbed sleep caused by a breathing disturbance. Lack of healing sleep can also result in muscle tension, spasms and pain, especially in head and neck muscles. Many people experience TMJ pain (jaw joint pain) as well.

Someone with normal sleeping patterns will sleep with their teeth apart, coming together lightly with occasional swallowing. But in many individuals with a sleep-breathing disorder the body reacts with an episode of squeezing the teeth firmly and tightly for hours at a time with all the force it can muster. Ouch!


And then there’s acid reflux—yet another symptom. What in the world does acid reflux have to do with sleep-disordered breathing?

We see it in children and adults. It can be a subtle acid reflux experience or a more acute, “Oh my gosh, I’m choking! experience. Many adults report suddenly awakening with a mouthful stomach acid, choking and gasping for air—a truly awful and scary feeling. Others afflicted with acid reflux may not even notice acid in their mouths, but we dentists can see erosion on their teeth in the form of pitting or missing (dissolved) tooth structure. This is commonly seen in children and we often see small divots on the chewing surfaces of their molars caused by acid reflux.

Some scientists suggest that morning congestion of the nose and sinuses is caused by acid aerosols

​​ that are produced from the reflux; this mist is what irritates our sinuses & causes sinusitis and congestion in the mornings, many times mistakenly confused with allergies. Measurements of acid have confirmed more acidity is seen when a sleep-breathing disorder is present.​


During episodes of forceful breathing, negative pressure is produced in our breathing tubes (our breathing tubes collapse, and our bodies struggle to breathe). This creates a phenomenon like a vacuum cleaner tube sucking up acid from the stomach into the breathing tube. The end result is more acid making its way into our esophagus, mouth and sinuses. As noted in previous chapters, many patients grind their teeth when they sleep. When you couple this with acid reflux, more abnormal wear on your teeth will be noted.

We need good quality sleep for our physical health, our biochemical processes, our brain and memory function, our bodily repair, our immunity, and our emotional stability (among lots of other things). We should focus not just on getting the proper quantity of sleep but just as importantly, quality. Good sleep is a major pillar of health.

Without good sleep our lives are doomed.

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