Sleep. It’s that ever elusive kudo that comes at the end of each day. For some of us, it happens quite easily. For others, it’s a process that may or may not end up in sweet dreams. For our children with ADHD, anxiety, or autism, sleep is truly of the essence. It’s needed to maintain focus, to regulate mood and allow for learning. Without it, we see our children struggle with more anxiety, more restlessness, more inattention, more irritability, and more difficulty learning. Over time, we, as their parents, become unsure of which came first and we have a vicious cycle that can become hard to break or remedy.
How Much Sleep Do We Need Each Night?
According to Tuck.com, the numbers of hours of sleep needed each night (optimally) is based on age. The following is the breakdown:
Infants Under 1 Year 16-20 Hours
1-2 Years of Age 14 Hours
3-4 Years of Age 12 Hours
5-12 Years of Age 10 Hours
13-19 Years of Age 9 Hours
Adults and Seniors 7-8 Hours
ADHD and Sleep
Children with ADHD often struggle with sleep. CHADD.com says the most common sleep problems for children and adolescents is difficulty fall asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and difficulty waking up. Children and adolescents with ADHD also struggle with sleepwalking, snoring, breathing difficulty, restless sleep, and nightmares. When children are prescribed medication, parents and teachers see an improvement in a child’s ability to maintain focus; however, the stimulant component can also negatively impact a child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep each night.
The National Sleep Foundation states children with ADHD who don’t sleep enough hours each night may be even more fidgety, restless, impulsive, and even irritable and aggressive. Children who do not sleep well during the night may struggle socially to interact with their peers and pick up on social cues, understand a lesson presented in class, be able to follow directions given by a teacher when transitioning, for example. Ultimately, this leads to a child who can become ‘tired and wired’, and can become stuck in a non-sleeping pattern for months.
A study completed by Golan, Shahar, and Pillar (2004), showed that there is a high comorbidity between AD/HD and disordered breathing as well as restless leg syndrome. It was recommended that parents discuss these possibilities with the child’s pediatrician in order to gain treatment for these conditions that could be disturbing sleep cycles and contributing to an exacerbation of symptoms…