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Link between sleep apnea and Asperger's?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I'm so curious because someone on another link was talking about oxygen levels and autism, and HBOT. I wonder if anyone else knows about a link between sleep apnea and ASD. Our son has SID and symptoms of Asperger's, though we have not had him Dx'd. He has had sleep apnea since he was an infant. It had never occured to us that he could be suffering from oxygen deprivation and that this could be causing some of his neurological symptoms and atypical behavior. We only thought about how his sensory system doesn't cope as well when he is tired from his lack of sleep. I found one study (which I can't find again today) that talked about the possibility of sleep apnea causing brain damage. Anyways, I didn't look into all this until after we just had his adenoids removed last week. Now I'm so glad that we did it. Just a thought for anyone whose child has sleep apnea. An ENT can determine the best treatment for sleep apnea. Adenoidectomy was strongly indicated for our DS, but that is not the solution for everyone.

By the way, it is only a week later, and he is fully recovered from the surgery and breathing clear now. I'll post again if we notice a dramatic improvement in his function or behavior.
post #2 of 7
Well, I know a while back there was some studies on the link between sleep apnea and ADHD. Basically they were finding that when children had interupted sleep on a regular basis it affected thier functioning during the day often making them hyper, distractable, etc. I believe it can even affect cognitive functioning.

Therefor, though I don't know about AS and sleep apnea it would stand to reason that it could be an issue.

post #3 of 7
Sleep deprivation has the symptoms of many other disorders. ADD, ADHD, even mild Aspberger's.

T&A is recommended for obstructive apnea.
For central apnea, sometimes caffeine, or treating the underlying issue, frequently metabolic.
post #4 of 7
A link between nighttime breathing problems and low oxygen supply to the brain resulting in ASD symptoms was suggested to me by a DAN neurologist we consulted with earlier this year. I haven't found anything about a definitive link but the hypothesis is interesting. Here's some of what I've found.

A case report:

Then you have stuff like this article saying sleep apnea affects neuronal development:

...followed by this study saying that a hallmark of autism is abnormal neuronal development:

From what I understand a function like low oxygen to the brain might be part of why HBOT is helping some kids:

It's definitely making me consider having DD evaluated for apnea since she can be a loud snorer at night. My father was once diagnosed with apnea and I don't know if it could be something that is genetic. How do you go about diagnosing apnea? I really hate putting her through diagnostic tests because she gets scared by unusual looking equipment and some types of doctor's offices and I don't like stressing her out unless I'm sure it's 100% necessary. I'm definitely interested in hearing more if this treatment helps your son.
post #5 of 7
You get a sleep study. It's overnight. You stay with them. Findout if you have a pediatric certified sleep lab in your area.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
A sleep study is usually the thing to do. We ended up bypassing it, I guess by DS's history and symptoms, and by process of elimination. We had noticed DS's difficulty with breathing at night since infancy. He developed chronic congestion around 6 weeks old, that continued until allergies were eliminated at around 2 1/2 yrs. The congestion lead to frequent, chronic sinusitis, which can be associated with enlarged adenoids. His breathing always sounded relatively normal at night until the moment he fell asleep. Then he always breathed through his mouth, and snored through his nose. Watching him sleep, it was quite obvious that he repeatedly stopped breathing for about 10 seconds, give or take a few seconds depending on whether or not he had a cold. Each time, he began breathing again with a gasp and sometimes jerking his body, usually to roll to his side (side sleeping was better than back). We took him to an ENT who gave him nasal sprays, one with steroid med, one without. We tried it for a year to see that it helped some, but not enough. The ENT said that was the easiest way to rule out one potential cause (the turbinates), and the next most likely cause would be the adenoids. When we went back a few weeks ago he recommended CTscan to be totally sure, and they saw that his adenoids were significantly enlarged, so they had to come out. Now he breathes beautifully, it's only been a week. His behavior has not improved yet, but I suppose that may take some time.

If sleep apnea was actually a factor in producing DS's ASD symptoms, I'm guessing the continued O2 deprivation could have a progressive impact on brain funciton, so I'm glad we didn't wait any longer. I wouldn't want to push anyone to seek treatment that isn't necessary, but I'm a strong believer in what a good, caring doctor might be able to conclude from taking a detailed case history. The only diagnostic exam that was potentially difficult for DS was the CTscan, but that ended up being fine. Everything else was pretty standard office visit other than a more careful look in the nose. And thanks for all those site recommendation, Krissi, I wish I was keeping better track of the good sites I've found so I could pass them along.
post #7 of 7
I can't believe they made you wait for a year before taking our his adenoids if his symptoms were that obvious.

This is just one more reason to have the sleep study as quickly as possible.

That and not all sleep apnea is obstructive. If it's central apnea, you could be dealing with a metabolic issue. Many metabolic issues have consquences to brain function that have similar symptoms to ASD.

The sleep study needs to be done in a certified place read by a certified sleep specialist (often a neurologist):

This link has info on having your child eval'ed for OSA The rest of the website has some good info too.

The Apnea Support Forum has a good page here about finding a doctor and sleep lab that are accredited.

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