Don’t be too quick to diagnose your child’s rambunctious behavior as an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It’s easy to look at the symptoms like trouble paying attention, impulsiveness or delayed learning and label it as a behavioral disorder like ADHD. Maybe your child’s just tired. A recent study at the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology suggests that the real issue is that children aren’t getting enough sleep. The 700 kids (ages 2-13) studied found that those who didn’t sleep in their own bed were seven times more likely to be present Attention Deficit Hyperactivty Disorder-like symptoms than those who always slept in their bed. It also revealed that kids who did not have a regular bedtime were eight times more likely to present the ADHD symptoms. The study suggests that sleeping with parents can actually disrupt the sleep of children. Another study suggests that treating sleep problems may be enough to eliminate the ADHD symptoms. If your child presents symptoms that resemble that of a behavioral disorder like ADHD, sometimes referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), try to assess for the possibility of a sleep related issue first. There is no actual test to diagnose ADHD or ADD, the diagnosis strongly depends on the feedback of the parents. Before jumping to conclusions, you should rule out other possibilities like problems with sleep.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms:

Difficulty waiting or taking turns

Sleep Deprivation Symptoms:

Oppositional behavior
Moodiness and irritability
Difficulty waking up in the morning.


Things you Can Do

Consistent bedtimes: Keeping your child on a sleep routine, especially on the weekends is a good way to get their mind and body in the habit of welcoming or preparing for that bedtime when it rolls around.

Sleep Window: Don’t miss this opportunity. It can be hard to convince your child it’s time for bed. Pay extra special attention to their sleep window. A rub of the eyes and a few yawns might be the best time to start a bedtime.

Don’t bunk up: Let your child sleep in their own bed without you or the dog. Sleeping together will only harm their sleep.

Keep it Dark and Quiet: Get rid of anything that emits light or might prevent your child from falling asleep (television). If your child is afraid of the dark, get a small wattage nightlight and don’t keep it too close to their bed. Noise and light stimulate the mind and prevent kids from falling asleep.

If your unsure whether it’s a behavioral disorder like ADHD or a sleep related issue, start keeping a sleep log for about two weeks. You can use this to show your pediatrician if your still worried about your child’s symptoms. This give your doctor a better understanding of your child’s sleep patterns.

What to Include in Your Sleep Log

Bedtime routine
Sleep and wake times
Naps (length)
Sleep disruptions (i.e. nightmares, bedwetting)
Daily activities (exercise, video games)

About Valley Sleep Center:

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disordered testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable sleep experts who provide advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleep walking and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at (480) 830-3900.