by Dr. Silberstein
Parents know that tired children can be difficult to deal with. When tired, children tend to get fussy, cranky, whiny, more likely to have a tantrum, and less likely to cooperate with their caretakers. This is understandable: it is hard for kids (and adults) to pay attention and do what is expected of them when they are tired or sleepy. And while this is true for most children, it might be especially true for those with ADHD.
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:
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
Omrit Silberstein, PsyD, DBSM