Ask the Doctor: Is My Inability to Concentrate Due to Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH) or ADHD?

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Although the Hypersomnia Foundation is not currently accepting new submissions for its Ask the Doctor series, we are working to answer previously submitted questions that are of general interest to our hypersomnia community. Today we have Dr. David Plante, a prestigious member of our Medical Advisory Board, who is board certified in both psychiatry and sleep medicine, to answer a question about ADHD and its connection to idiopathic hypersomnia.


There are similar symptoms of both ADD and idiopathic hypersomnia. For instance, not being able to concentrate, forgetfulness, etc. Example: if I forget where I laid my keys (for the 5th time that day), or let’s say I’m distracted 20 times on the way to do the laundry and that task never did get finished… who’s to say or how can someone determine that my forgetfulness or inability to finish a task was from ADD or IH brain fog/sleep drunkenness, extreme sleepiness and extreme fatigue? I was diagnosed with ADD, but my symptoms ARE the same ones as my IH symptoms. (There are different symptoms for both disorders. I understand that, but I’m addressing only the ones that are the same.) So my question is this, maybe I never had ADD after all? Maybe it was IH all along? How do you tell?

Response from Dr. Plante:

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Idiopathic hypersomnia (IH) is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, often despite excessive sleep duration. Patients with IH, who are pathologically hypersomnolent, often experience impairments in attention, organization, and cognitive tasks, similar to patients with ADHD. This is most likely related to their excessive daytime sleepiness. In my experience, clinicians who are not familiar with IH often misdiagnose these patients as having ADHD. Since patients with ADHD are routinely treated with stimulants, which may improve both sleepiness and ADHD symptoms, this can result in delays in accurate diagnoses for patients with IH (and other sleep disorders), since they are not referred for appropriate sleep testing to evaluate their symptoms.


Disclaimer for Ask The Doctor: The medical information provided is meant for educational purposes only and not as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Questions about a personal health condition should be discussed with your healthcare professional.

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