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Suspect ADHD? It May Be a Sleep Disorder

Sleep is an essential component of our body’s performance. It is food for the brain. Not only is it necessary for maintaining optimal overall health, but it also serves as a reset for our brains, which is essential to all humans, especially our small ones. In growing children, it is especially important. Nearly 79 percent of children under the age of ten experience some type of sleep disorder.

A growing list of studies, including this 2017 study, suggest that inadequate sleep early in life (preschool to early school years) can lead to increased risk of behavioral and cognitive problems later in life.

Other studies suggest that sleep disorders can manifest as symptoms of ADHD. This is because, in some people, sleep deprivation can cause hyperactivity and an inability to focus. The challenge is that ADHD-like symptoms can remain even after the sleep problems are resolved. It is essential to find out if a sleep disorder exists before giving an ADHD diagnosis.

Studies also show that teens are suffering from a lack of sleep with a reported 15% getting 8 ½ hours of sleep on school nights. When their bodies are naturally not able to fall asleep before 11pm, it can be difficult waking at 5am for school. This lack of sleep leads to issues with poor test scores, poor sports performance, safety issues when driving and even acne.

Here are some tips to help your family get their best night’s sleep.

Do make sure your family receives the correct amount of sleep nightly.

  • Birth to 3 months: 14-17 hours
  • 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (ages 1-2): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5): 10-13 hours
  • School-age kids (ages 6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teens (ages 14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Young Adults (ages 18-25): 7-9 hours
  • Adults: 7-9 hours
  • Older Adults: 7-8 hours

Don’t allow children to watch television or use electronic devices within an hour before bed. The blue light emitted from the screens can delay the release of melatonin, which prepares the body for sleep. It can also increase alertness and reset the body’s internal clock. More on the problems caused by blue-light from screens can be found here.

Do establish a daily schedule for your family. Allowing a child to stay up late on the weekends will make it very difficult to go to sleep at their bedtime on school nights.

Do recognize that guidelines are averages of what each person needs. Some need more, and some require less to feel rested and refreshed. Paying attention to how a child reacts when they receive different amounts of sleep provides invaluable information about the unique needs of the individual.

Your child’s health is a top priority. If you are concerned about your child’s sleep, a sleep disorder or ADHD, schedule an appointment with their pediatric provider today.