Sleep Disorders and ADHD

By Eileen Bailey

Sleep Disorders are characterized by not being able to fall asleep, frequent waking, or sleep apnea.  Dr. Jay Tarnow, in an article, ADHD and Sleep Disorders, that appeared on the website ADDA-SR, listed possible causes of sleep disturbances as, “a symptom of a disorder (i.e. ADHD, Depression, Anxiety Disorders), a side effect to medication (e.g. stimulants), lifestyle induced (i.e. caffeine, alcohol, obesity), or a primary sleep disorder.”

Not getting enough sleep at night can cause mood swings, hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, lack of motivation, aggressiveness, headaches and slower reaction times. Many of these symptoms also appear in ADHD.  Recent debates have questioned whether sleep disturbances may be the more accurate diagnosis in some children diagnosed with ADHD or whether lack of sleep is a cause of ADHD.

Many people with ADHD do have problems falling asleep.  They may not keep a regular bedtime, losing track of time when preoccupied with projects or watching a television show. They may not be able to calm down enough to fall asleep, with thoughts racing through their minds.  The stimulant medication they take may interfere with falling asleep. (Although this side effect of medication usually disappears within a few weeks of taking the medication.) 

Others with ADHD may complain that they continually wake up through the night. Once awake, they may have trouble falling back to sleep. For some children, nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) may cause anxiety about falling asleep or they may wake up after wetting the bed and not be able to fall back asleep.

If sleep disturbances are causing you or your child, problems, you should consult your physician. However, there are some strategies you can use to begin to develop good sleeping habits.

 1)      Set a bedtime and stick with it. Going to bed at the same time each night will help you to set your “internal clock.”

2)      Wake up at the same time each morning, whether it is a weekday or weekend.

3)      Do not take naps during the day.

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