My daughter has ADHD. Will that affect her sleep?
Children with ADHD often experience sleep difficulties. For example, children with this disorder may find it difficult to fall asleep at night or may wake up during the night. They may also find that they have restless legs during the night and researchers have also reported links between sleep apnea (which involves short pauses in breathing during the night) and ADHD-symptoms.
Why do they tend to have more sleep problems?
As to why children with ADHD are more likely than others to have sleep problems a number of hypotheses have been proposed. In some cases it seems that certain medications prescribed for ADHD can have a negative impact upon sleep. This may be because of the action of the drug itself or because it is wearing off and so the ADHD symptoms which have been controlled now return and disturb sleep. Medications cannot explain everything though – as an association between ADHD and disturbed sleep is also found in those who are not medicated. Some researchers have raised the possibility that disturbed sleep may lead to ADHD symptoms. It is true that a sleep deprived child can behave like a child with ADHD and there are some data to suggest that improving sleep can reduce ADHD symptoms. Of course, ADHD could also lead to certain sleep disturbances, too – with features of ADHD (such as being distracted by extraneous stimuli such as a ticking clock) making it difficult to sleep. Then, there are likely to be factors that lead to both ADHD and disturbed sleep such as shared genetic and environmental factors and levels of arousal for example.
It’s useful to know that ADHD and sleep disturbances may go hand-in-hand. If your child is diagnosed with ADHD it may be worth paying attention to your child’s sleep routine and the quality of your child’s sleep at night and flagging any concerns to your health care provider. Addressing sleep problems may even help to alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD. Just because ADHD and sleep disturbances are associated, it doesn’t mean that all children with ADHD have problems with their sleep – and of course many do not.About Dr. Alice Gregory