An article published in the November 2017 issue of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine journal describes some of the ways in which poor sleep impacts children with and without ADHD.
The study, which was done in the United Kingdom with 32 children aged 5-11, found the following:
- Children diagnosed with ADHD take longer to fall asleep compared to children without ADHD. They also tend to have more sleep problems, such as nightmares, sleepwalking, or bedwetting.
- When children without ADHD sleep poorly, they are more likely to display daytime ADHD-like behaviors, such as hyperactivity or impulsivity (but not inattention).
- Sleep problem among children with ADHD are predictive of greater inattention.
According to the study’s authors, these findings may suggest that some children diagnosed with ADHD may in fact suffer from sleep problems, and once their sleep issues are addressed and resolved, the inattention and hyperactivity would also resolve.
In summary, this and other studies have shown that non-ADHD kids who sleep poorly are more likely to have challenging behaviors (in a way that resembles ADHD symptoms). There is also evidence that for children with ADHD, insufficient sleep worsens some of their symptoms.
So what does it all mean for your child? If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, or has ADHD-like behaviors and symptoms, improving his or her sleep should be considered. Addressing sleep issues is a worthwhile intervention, with potential positive impact on your child’s behavior and attentional skills. This, in turn, could improve your child’s quality of life at home and at school and also lead to better school performance.
Frances Le Cornu Knight & Dagmara Dimitriou (2017) Poor Sleep Has Negative Implications for Children With and Without ADHD, but in Different Ways, Behavioral Sleep Medicine, DOI: 10.1080/15402002.2017.1395335