Check Your Child’s Sleep Habits Before You Worry About ADHD

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Some common symptoms of ADHD are showing up in children with a very different problem, a correctable one. Researchers surveyed over 700 parents of children age 2 to 13 and found some alarming patterns for kids who don’t have a structured night time routine. Kids with no set bedtime who share a bed with their parents or siblings were more likely to have a variety of issues that are commonly associated with ADHD. These issues include temper tantrums, meltdowns, low-confidence, hitting and kicking, and behavioral problems at school.

If those problems aren’t bad enough, kids exhibiting these issues were more likely to be prescribed medicine for learning and behavioral problems. In other words, parents and doctors were creating issues when the simple problem was poor sleep habits.

As adults, we should know what exhaustion and sleeplessness can do to our kids. After a rough night, I have a hard time concentrating. I’m more emotional. I wouldn’t say that I get violent, but I can completely relate to a lack of self-control. If these issues affect grown adults, just imagine how it would make a child feel.

And while many would argue that co-sleeping is healthy for children, I can understand how having someone else in bed with you makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Anytime I acquiesce and let my daughter crawl in to bed with me, she immediately starts talking. Even if we’re snuggling and closing our eyes, we stay up longer discussing the dreams we’ll have and our excitement about tomorrow. Our bodies need a routine to make sleeping easy and natural, so set bed times help children by establishing that routine for them. It ends arguments over night time, which can keeps kids up later, as the argument takes up time and then they’re jazzed from the fight.

Creating bed time habits are essential. And studies like this prove just how detrimental it can be to lose sleep. Not only are these kids with “faux-ADHD” as the researchers called it, acting out and getting behind in school, they could potentially be diagnosed and medicated for a disorder that they don’t actually have. And every time we over-prescribe and misdiagnose, it makes it more difficult for families that are really struggling with issues like ADHD.

What lesson should we learn here? We need to be looking at every natural cause for disordered behavior before we jump to conclusions about acting learning and behavior issues. If the answer is as simple as, “Set an appropriate bedtime,” we need to be looking there first.