Do sleep problems cause ADHD?

shutterstock 1023149644We all know that if you don’t get enough quality sleep you will not have good attention. recently hosted a webinar about how sleep affects the ADHD brain and the two experts, Joel Nigg, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Super, M.D., gave some helpful insight on the subject. Here are some pinpoints from the discussion:

While it’s unusual for sleep to be the route cause of ADHD, it’s very common for children with ADHD to have sleep problems. The sleep problems are secondary to ADHD but it can make symptoms of ADHD worse. You get a vicious cycle where sleep can make ADHD worse and ADHD can make sleep more difficult.

A recent study showed that adolescents with less sleep did tend to have less attention, were more oppositional, and had sluggish cognitive tempo. However, it’s important to note that poor sleep is not associated with hyperactivity. When poor attention and irritability are more prominent than hyperactivity, that is a flag for sleep problems to be evaluated.

Sleep apnea is one condition that can mimic similar symptoms of ADHD. Especially in a school aged child. If sleep apnea is treated, ADHD symptoms may completely resolve or be improved. If you have symptoms of both, you may want to treat sleep apnea first before pursuing ADHD treatment. The results depend on the person and are not the same for everyone.

If a sleep condition is not present, the first approach to sleep problems should be changing your routine and behaviors. If that doesn’t work, counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful. Even just 2-3 sessions can guide you in the right direction and help you setup specific behavioral goals.

The fact is 70% of us do not get the amount of sleep that is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Common sleep stealers are media devices, changes in routine, and not getting to bed on time during weekends. Take a look at your sleep behaviors and write out very specific goals to help you change your routine. It will be the first step towards bringing your life back into focus.

Harvard Health has reported that mindfulness techniques can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. “The daytime sleepiness that follows can leave you feeling lousy and sap your productivity, and it may even harm your health. Now, a small study suggests that mindfulness meditation — a mind-calming practice that focuses on breathing and awareness of the present moment — can help.”

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