Recent research questions whether ADHD and sleeplessness are two sides of the same physiological and mental coin.
Recent statistics show that 1 in 10 children is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, a debate is brewing among experts in the field whether, for a segment of that number, the condition could be a sleep disorder.
At a recent scientific conference in Paris, experts discussed the theory that sleep and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are intertwined, but cautioned that more proof is needed to confirm the association.
Studies have shown that about 75 percent of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also have sleep issues. Recent research questions whether ADHD and sleeplessness are two sides of the same physiological and mental coin.
“If adults don’t get enough sleep, they’ll appear sleepy,” said Dr. Syed Naqvi, a pediatric sleep expert at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute in Dallas. “Children don’t do that. They show ADHD-like behavior instead — hyperactive or inattentive.”
The behavior of plenty of ADHD-diagnosed children only improves after better sleep quality and duration, Naqvi said. Occasionally, ADHD medications are the root of the sleep issues, he said.
Dr. Preston Wiles, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder expert with the O’Donnell Brain Institute, acknowledges that the increasing number of children taking these medications is concerning.
“Pills can be a poor substitute for taking the time to truly understand what is going on with behavior,” Wiles said.
If you’re a parent who is concerned that poor sleep may be affecting your child’s behavior, Naqvi offers the following tips:Watch for signs of breathing issues, such as snoring or short intervals of halted breathing, and get an evaluation by a sleep expert. Measure the duration of nighttime sleep, and monitor sleepiness during the day. Monitor school performance, and seek help if it doesn’t improve after starting ADHD medications.