Iowa Sleep Blog

ADHD and Sleep

Monday, October 24, 2016

In my Sleep Fellowship training at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, I was allowed the opportunity to work closely with both Adult and Child/Adolescent Psychiatrists.This experience afforded me an understanding that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sleep disorders can often present together.

Clinically, this can be challenging; particularly in children, where an accurate/timely diagnosis is of utmost importance.It is critical to understand that sleepy children, DO NOT present like sleepy adults.Children often display hyperactive impulsivity whereas sleep deprived adults can appear to be more withdrawn and lethargic.Inadequate sleep in children can negatively affect the way kids think, function and behave.

ADHD often begins in childhood and can persist in adulthood.Sleep problems, particularly difficultly initiating and maintaining sleep are frequently reported in children and adolescents with ADHD.From a theoretical perspective, there is substantial empirical evidence supporting an overlap in those central nervous system centers that regulate attention/arousal, suggesting disruptions in one system might well have parallel effects on the other.Up to one-half of parents whose child has been diagnosed with ADHD, describe that their children suffer from sleep problems.Children with ADHD are two to three times more likely to have sleep problems as compared to children that do not carry the ADHD diagnosis.It begs careful consideration to understand that some of the medications (stimulants) that are used in the treatment of ADHD can cause sleep problems in some children yet actually help to consolidate sleep in other kids.This can be confusing to clinicians and parents alike!

Parents sometimes ask me if their child might be misdiagnosed with ADHD when what’s causing their symptoms might really be lack of sleep.I often hear anecdotes from parents of children with ADHD that all symptoms of ADHD improved once a sleep diagnosis was established and treated.The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the position that children and adolescents should be screened for a sleep disorder prior to the establishment of the ADHD diagnosis.

If the ADHD diagnosis is being considered in a child or adolescent that you know, make sure they have been appropriately screened.Iowa Sleep has experience and knowledge in Pediatric Sleep Medicine – our American Academy of Sleep Medicine(AASM) lab allows children and their parent a comfortable and stress free experience.We allow parents to stay in the same room as their child and our labs places a strong emphasis on patient comfort.Our Sleep Technologists do a great job helping ease kids into the testing experience. Take a virtual tour of our sleep centers by clicking here.

If you would like to schedule a consult for one of your children with our sleep doctors, call us at (800) 226-6084. Send us a question you would like to have answered using our easy online form.

Written by Stephen Grant, MD. Board Certified Sleep Medicine Physician at Iowa Sleep