Source Article: https://www.babysleepsite.com/adhd/adhd-and-sleep/
You don’t have to search very far to come up with plenty of evidence indicating that ADHD and sleep disorders are connected. It’s estimated that anywhere from one quarter to one half of children with an ADHD diagnosis also suffer from one or more sleep disorders. That’s a significantly higher rate than we would find in a group of children without ADHD.
So what kinds of sleep disorders do children with ADHD diagnoses suffer from? The list includes:
Here’s the really, really hard part — sleep disorders and ADHD symptoms tend to work in tandem. Sleep disorders cause a child to get less sleep than she needs; that lack of sleep makes her ADHD symptoms (hyperactivity, an inability to calm down and focus, etc.) worse. And her worsening ADHD symptoms make it even harder for her to sleep, which makes her ADHD symptoms even more severe… It’s a discouraging, heartbreaking cycle for many families.
This works in much the same way that overtiredness works in babies — if your baby doesn’t get enough sleep one night, it makes him overly exhausted the next day. And that overtiredness makes it even harder for him to fall sleep the next night, which makes him even more overtired…
Peggy Dolane shared her own experience with us in a previous post. Here’s what she had to say about the connection between her daughter’s ADHD and sleep:
Three years ago, my seven year old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD. Looking back on it, difficulty falling sleep was one of the significant symptoms of her ADHD. From day one, even as a baby, sleep didn’t come as easily as for her older brother. She would lie in her crib, clearly tired, singing to herself for up to an hour every night. Often, you’d find her sitting up in her crib asleep!
Once we moved her to a big-girl bed, sleep became a major issue. She just couldn’t seem to let go at the end of the day. The more tired she was, the harder it was for her to go to sleep. Exhausted, she would have major tantrums at night.
Experts agree that there’s a strong connection between ADHD and sleep, but in the last decade or so, some researchers have found evidence to suggest that sleep disorders might actually be the cause of many cases of ADHD. An article in the Well blog of the New York Times explains this fairly new line of thinking.
The article highlights a study presented in March 2012, which found that children who suffered from sleep apnea as infants and toddlers were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD when they reached their preschool and early school years.
The article goes on to cite other studies which indicate that children who have ADHD and sleep apnea benefit greatly from having their adenoids and tonsils removed (since enlarged adenoids and tonsils are a huge cause of sleep apnea). In fact, many of the children who had surgery improved so much, they no longer fit the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis!
Dr. Merill Wise, a pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist, summarizes the findings this way:
“No one is saying that ADHD does not exist, but there’s a strong feeling now that we need to rule out sleep issues first.”
It’s almost a chicken-and-egg scenario, isn’t it? Which came first — the ADHD or the sleep disorder? Researchers haven’t come to an agreement on that question yet, but one fact remains clear: it’s vital that a child with ADHD get the sleep he needs. Research suggests that being well-rested will help alleviate some (or maybe even all) of his ADHD symptoms.
So what can we do as parents to help our children with ADHD sleep well? Consider some of the following steps:
At our next visit, our psychiatrist affirmed that many of his patients took Melatonin daily to sleep. So with mixed emotions, we tried it. The very first night we saw a dramatic improvement. The child that regularly took an hour or more to fall asleep immediately lay down and slept. Quietly. With no fuss. Within three weeks she was sleeping 11 hours a night instead of 10 and her evening tantrums had dramatically decreased. I started being able to enjoy being around my child at bedtime.
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