Might you have a child who is diagnosed with ADHD or has a sleep disorder? They may be misdiagnosed since they have similar symptoms – here are some pointers.
Children normally struggle with attention spans, but it is a harder road to walk for some of them compared to others. Signs such as frequent struggles with controlling impulses, forgetfulness, problems with paying attention, and so on can be signs of ADHD, but they might also be signs of sleep deprivation in a child. In addition, many kids who have ADHD also struggle with falling or staying asleep, so it can be challenging to tell these two apart from one another.
As a parent, you may be concerned that your child is struggling with ADHD when they are really struggling with sleep, while others may say that the symptoms of ADHD disappeared when their children began to get proper sleep. Might this mean they did not have the condition in the first place?
Can children get sleeping disorders?
The condition is present, though it is not common in children, according to a senior director of the Child Mind Institute. That also means not many children will have sleeping disorders mistaken for ADHD or any other disorders. Therefore, when you sleep better, your child is better able to handle other conditions.
Sleep issues in your child can also be due to other mental issues such as anxiety, trauma and depression, as all of these can make a child struggle while presenting similar symptoms. It is therefore important that you examine all the symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity and distractibility using the context of all the symptoms you see in your child.
Signs of sleep disturbances in your child
The struggle to sleep might be the result of multiple factors, such as a mental disorder like anxiety, or it may be due to a medical condition such as asthma or sleep apnea, which will affect their breathing and make it hard for your child to sleep soundly.
Even though there is a small percentage of children who are diagnosed with sleep disorders, it is important to eliminate the possibility of a more serious medical condition.
Some signs you need to look out for include trouble falling and staying asleep, making strange noises in their sleep, difficulties waking up in the morning, waking up in a panic, and falling asleep in class. Others are waking up coughing, labored breathing during sleep, irritability, and challenges in paying attention.
The most important thing to keep in mind as a parent is being mindful of the general guidelines of the hours that your child needs to sleep, but also recognizing that every child is different and their sleep needs will vary. However, when your child has less sleep hours than the average child of that age, that should point out there is something wrong and needs investigation – lack of sleep will affect their personality negatively, regardless of whether it is a full blown disorder or not.
Signs of ADHD
The condition affects roughly 6 to 10 percent of the total population, and usually appears in early childhood years. Some signs you need to note include trouble staying seated, issues with sustaining their focus on activities that need concentration, easily distractible, and excessive amounts of energy. Other signs include a tendency to blurt things out, trouble in following instructions, impatience (both with themselves and others), difficulties in organization skills, and forgetfulness.
Note that all children will show these tendencies sometimes, but children with ADHD have a higher intensity of these symptoms than others in their age group. It will also interfere with their general functioning across multiple things and tasks.
What if your child has both conditions?
It can be difficult to tell what causes the other – does ADHD cause sleep deprivation, or is it the other way around? If your child has ADHD, chances are high they have excessively high energy levels compared to other children of the same age. That will also translate into them having problems with their sleeping quality and quantity, even if they sleep on a bear mattress – and that means they have less amounts per night.
The medication they are taking could also be the cause of lack of sleep, especially when it is still active when they go to bed. In addition, a very small percentage of children have sleep disturbances, and they may both have sleep disorders that have not been diagnosed as well as ADHD. For cases like this, treating the sleep disorder can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of the condition.
What should you do, then?
If your child is having issues with their ability to fall or stay asleep because of medication, make sure to talk to your doctor, and they might reduce the dose or change the timings of the medication so that it is not active when your child is supposed to be sleeping.
If the child is suffering from a lack of seep despite this measure and you do not know the reason why, then booking an appointment with a psychologist, sleep specialist, or a pediatrician can help. They can make a behavioral plan with you, which helps to pinpoint your child’s behavior better and make a sleeping schedule that will help them recover.
Measures from the initiative can include reducing screen time before they go to bed, setting a more consistent bedtime schedule, or other measures that can improve sleep hygiene.
If the cause of your child struggling with sleep is related to sleep apnea or respirator conditions such as asthma, then you need to consult with a doctor, and they can do a sleep study to determine if further action is required. If it is something more serious, there still needs to be tests to confirm that there is an underlying cause to make sure it is ADHD.
The most important thing to note is that very few children have sleeping disorders that are linked to ADHD, but they are definitely something to take into account by both you and your child’s doctor.