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ADHD and Sleep Problems in Children

June 18, 2024

Understanding the Link Between ADHD and Sleep Problems in Children

Many parents are concerned about their child’s sleep habits, especially if their child has ADHD. This article explores the connection between ADHD and sleep problems, how they affect daily life, and the potential reasons behind this link.

The Prevalence of Sleep Problems in ADHD

Up to half of children with ADHD experience sleep issues, ranging from difficulty falling asleep to restless sleep and even sleep disorders. These sleep problems can worsen ADHD symptoms and make daily life more challenging.

The Cycle of ADHD and Sleep

Around puberty, individuals with ADHD are more likely to experience:

  • Shorter sleep duration
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Increased risk of sleep disorders
  • Nightmares

These sleep problems can then worsen ADHD symptoms during the day, leading to forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and hyperactive behaviour in children. This cycle can be difficult to break and may even lead to misdiagnosis.

Why the Connection?

The exact reason behind the ADHD-sleep link is still unclear. Some theories suggest it could be due to:

  • Impaired brain regulation circuits affecting alertness and arousal
  • Delayed circadian rhythm with later melatonin production
  • Coexisting conditions like anxiety, depression, or substance abuse

The Impact of Sleep Problems on Daily Life

Children with both ADHD and a sleep disorder often experience:

  • More severe ADHD symptoms
  • Lower quality of life
  • Increased risk of depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity
  • Difficulty processing information
  • Higher BMI
  • Long-term health problems due to chronic sleep deprivation

Daytime Sleepiness and its Consequences

Daytime sleepiness can significantly impact school performance. It can also be dangerous while performing tasks requiring focus. Furthermore, poor sleep quality can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating

These symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for a mood disorder, further complicating the situation.

Impact on Families and Caregivers

Parents of children with ADHD and sleep problems are more likely to experience:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Difficulty managing work-life balance

Understanding the link between ADHD and sleep problems is crucial to help parents of children with ADHD manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being. If you suspect your child or yourself might have both ADHD and sleep problems, consult a your GP and SENDCO for referral to specialists for proper diagnosis and treatment.


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