Sleep is Crucial for Healthy Development

Amount and quality of sleep impacts children in every aspect imaginable. Sleep is crucial for proper growth and development, as well as daily functioning. Sleep is essential for neural development, and even a modest decrease in adequate sleep can decrease cognitive ability. According to The Journal of Developmental and Pediatric Behavior, there is a link between preschoolers who sleep less than 10 hours a day and behavior problems.  There is a significant correlation between hyperactive and impulsive behavior and short sleep duration.

I meet many parents that don’t understand the importance of sleep. I have parents bring their kids in to be evaluated for ADHD  and one of the first things we discuss is sleep. If a child is having sleep problems, we need to help correct the sleep issues before thinking about ADHD as the problem, it could be sleep deprivation.

Some parents will tell me their child goes to bed when they get tired. REALLY?? I’m thinking this doesn’t usually go over well. This may work on rare occasions when the child goes to bed at a reasonable time and is following the bodies natural sleep signals. Most children have a natural “window” when they will exhibit signs of sleepiness; rubbing eyes, slowing of activity, etc. If the child doesn’t go to bed during this time, they have an adrenaline rush, which keeps them up for a few more hours, and way past their bedtime!

Children should be expected to sleep in their own bed, and have a good bedtime ritual and schedule from a very young age. Good sleep hygiene makes all the difference as children grow and develop into adulthood. I’m not an advocate of co-sleeping. It may work for some families, but most of the time, the kids disturb the parents, and the parents disturb the kids. I’m all for early morning cuddling, after everyone has had a good nights sleep.

Getting an inadequate amount of sleep actually leads to nighttime wakening. For a child that is having trouble sleeping through the night, it is important to make sure the child is actually getting enough sleep. When children are tired, they will actually show signs of hyperactivity and irritability rather than signs of being tired.

Are their medical reasons that a child may not sleep well?? YES!! Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often have trouble falling asleep because they have trouble turning their brain off. When it comes to sleep and ADHD, each affects the other… ADHD can interfere with sleep, and sleep can make ADHD worse! Talk about a double edged sword…  When Josh was a baby we put him to bed with classical music for the first 2 years of his life, this worked wonders, but he decided he didn’t want it anymore when he was 2. Now, we use a “white noise” machine. If you are worried you child may have ADHD, check out my post Hyperactive or just busy…Could your child have ADHD?

Another medical problem that could interfere with adequate sleep is sleep apnea. Children that have allergies, causing swollen tonsils and adenoids, can have sleep apnea. For allergy info, check out Springtime & Sneezes…You might have allergies if… Children that  suffer from obesity are also high-risk for sleep apnea. Obesity can cause many other medical problems that I will address in a future post.

So, what can we do as parents to help our children get adequate sleep??

  • A good bedtime routine can help; bath, book, then bed is a common mantra of mine.
  • Read before bed, but read books for pleasure, or magazines, things that are of interest to the child. I love going into Joshua’s room at night and finding him asleep on top of his book! 🙂
  • Nightlights are helpful for young kids that have fears related to the dark, making it difficult for them to fall asleep.
  • NO TVs in the bedroom!! This cannot be emphasized enough, NO TV IN THE BEDROOM!!
  • Turn off all screens (TV, computer, ipod, phone texting, etc.) 1 hour before lights out.
  • a “white noise” machine, this is my kids favorite! You can get them with different sounds: rain, ocean, rain forest, waterfall, summer night, etc.

A child that doesn’t get enough sleep will be at risk for behavior problems, decreased immune function, increased irritability, inability to play independently, inability to learn from the environment, and interference with proper growth and development.  Lack of sleep can also increase a child’s risk for obesity, depression, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  It can also affect emotional well-being, performance, productivity, and cognitive ability. 

When I tell you about kids and sleep problems, I’m telling you not only from education but from experience. Joshua has had trouble falling asleep since he was a toddler.  Does it have anything to do with his ADHD? I’m sure it does. He could be the perfect case study of a child with proper sleep and then without.  He can be such a sweet, intelligent, polite, mannerly, inquisitive, interesting, funny guy. With no sleep, he turns into the Tasmanian devil.  He is whiny, irritable, fatigued, twirling his hair, and literally twirls in circles.  Wow, what a difference sleep can make. I have no doubt that Josh gets his sleep issues from genetics as well, I have problems with sleep sometimes too. My problems are because of a disease called fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia severely impacts one’s sleep. Inadequate sleep makes fibromyalgia worse. Interesting how all of these medical conditions have a reciprocal impact on one’s sleep and one’s health.

Sleep is important for all of us! Make it a priority for your children and it will make your parenting journey a little bit easier…Promise! 😉

Sweet Dreams and don’t forget to Enjoy the Journey!

Hyperactive or just busy… Could your child have ADHD??

Hi, all! Sorry I’ve been absent in the past week… Life is just too busy sometimes! There are just so many activities and responsibilities that we have in this modern society, and I’ve tried to take some time to just stop and smell the roses with my kids. Sometimes, I think I induce a little ADHD on myself. What I mean is, I have so many obligations that I find it difficult sometimes to focus on just one thing at a time. I find myself thinking about all of the things that I have on my “To Do List” when I am in the middle of work, time with the kids, driving, doing household chores, etc. Does this lack of focus interfere with the task at hand? Yes, it does. It makes me wonder if all of these obligations take a toll on our children too? I think the answer is Yes, absolutely!  What I find is that our children are frequently just as over scheduled as we are. Does this cause ADHD? No, it doesn’t cause ADHD, but it definitely can cause our children to be stressed and less focused.

Kids need time to just be kids!! Do you make sure your kids have this time??

Was Dennis ADHD, or was he just being a boy?? Hummm…

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, referred to as ADHD, is a real problem for some children. There are varying statistics, but probably about 10% of children have ADHD. Many will go undiagnosed because their parents or teachers think that they are just a behavior problem. I find that most ADHDers are really smart, and think of so many things at one time that they find it hard to focus on just one thing.  An ADHD kid might stare out the window and watch the cars going by, wondering where they are going, or thinking I really like that red car, when they should be listening to their math lesson.  This can be a real problem when it comes time for the math test. :-/

All ADHDers have trouble focusing and paying attention for any length of time. Another huge challenge for kids with ADHD is impulse control.  Kids with ADHD will do and say things without taking the time to think through what the consequences might be. This can be embarrassing for the kids and parents, and impulsive actions can actually be dangerous.

There are separate categories of ADHD. Not all children with ADHD will be hyperactive, hence the different diagnoses. Most often boys will have the hyperactive component of ADHD. Usually girls with ADHD will have problems with attention, but not the hyperactive component. Girls can be harder to diagnose because of the lack of hyperactive symptoms. Now, this does not mean that a boy might not have ADHD just because he isn’t hyperactive, and there are definitely girls that present with hyperactivity issues.

My current go to website, is ADDitudemag.com. I read an article from ADDitudemag this past year that I thought was the best article I’ve ever read about ADHD, please check out Secrets of the ADHD Brain. This article has a very new and progressive spin on ADHD. I think this is much more accurate than the traditional ADHD banter. 

A great reference site for families dealing with ADHD is Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. I share this website with all of the families I treat for ADHD. The symptoms of different types of ADHD (provided by CHADD.org) are as follows:

Subtype I: ADHD—Primarily Inattentive Type:
  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • Does not appear to listen
  • Struggles to follow through on instructions
  • Has difficulty with organization
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities
Subtype II: ADHD—Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive Type:
  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • Has difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs around or climbs excessively
  • Has difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Acts as if driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others

The third subtype is ADHD/Combined type, which is just as it sounds, a combination of all of the above symptoms.

Other things I notice with most of the ADHD children that I come across:

  • hypersensitivities to light, smell, sound, textures.  (Tags in shirts can really irritate these kids.) Check out this eye opening article on Hypersensitivities, actually this is the first article I’ve ever found that acknowledges and highlights these sensitivities.
  • inconsistent behavior – some days they seem to have perfect, socially appropriate actions, and some days they are just OFF!
  • food aversions – textures are more of a problem than the taste of foods (most likely related to being hypersensitive).
  • sleep problems – usually lifelong trouble falling asleep, and not just because of medication. (Mom’s post re: sleep)
  • anxiety problems – which can be a co-morbid condition with ADHD (Mom’s post re: anxiety)
  • lack of self-confidence – will not answer questions in class even if they know the right answer because they do not want to  be wrong.
  • constipation issues – possibly related to diet and lack of proper nutrition associated with food aversions (Mom’s post re: constipation)

So, how do you know if your child has ADHD? The above symptoms may appear in the lives of most children. The length of time that these symptoms are present, the severity of the symptoms, and the challenges that the behaviors cause in everyday life are all factors in diagnosis. I highly recommend talking to your primary care provider if you are worried that your child might have ADHD (you are welcome to contact me). Other problems that can present as ADHD are learning disabilities, sleep disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, lead poisoning, Asperger’s Syndrome, bipolar disorder and thyroid disorders. Diagnosis of ADHD isn’t easy, and requires thorough evaluation.  Evaluation should include reports from teachers and parents.

Undiagnosed ADHD can cause a child to feel like they are a behavior problem, unintelligent, and will decrease a child’s self esteem.  Children that are not treated for ADHD will have problems with social relationships, problems with self-esteem, and they may self medicate with cigarettes, drugs or alcohol. There are statistics that show that children with untreated ADHD have more driving violations and accidents, are more sexually promiscuous , and drop out of school; even really smart kids. For more info, see my post, ADHD: Why Medication is So Important!!

Al Einstein

ADHD can be unbelievably challenging. This is a condition very close to home for me, as my Joshua has ADHD. He is the smartest kid I know, but there are days that he certainly doesn’t act like it.  Then, there are days that he comes up with these amazing “out of the box” concepts that blow my mind! 🙂 Joshua was difficult to diagnose because of his high IQ. When I finally took him to see a PhD, he even blew the PhD’s mind during his IQ testing. We determined that Josh had excelled in school because he was smart enough to keep up, even if he wasn’t always paying attention. The other thing I have learned is that Joshua can focus on more than one thing at a time, and still pay attention, he actually does better when he has more than one thing to focus on.  His 4th grade teacher would allow him to doodle in class during instruction time, because it actually helped him pay attention. Go figure! I’ve told you, Josh is a challenging case, I’m still figuring him out, it’s my life mission! For a glimpse of my challenge, read Parenting= Biggest Reward + Most Challenging job you will EVER have, I’m sure you’ll get a good laugh. At the time, it was tough though. Josh had an amazing teacher for 2nd grade, she is convinced that he is going to someday do something great! We are all optimistic that Joshua is destined for greatness, but it is going to be a challenge getting him there! 😉 Josh used to love Albert Einstein, mostly because Al had ADHD too, and was kicked out of school! Josh has a baseball cap with Al’s picture on the front, this just makes me laugh. Many famous people have ADHD, and are our “out of the box” thinkers/inventors.  Along with Einstein, some of our famous ADHDers are Sir Isaac Newton, Galileo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, Ben Franklin, Alexander Bell, Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Norman Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Walt Disney,  Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby, Jim Carey, Ty Pennington, and Wilber & Orville Wright. So, you see, our society really needs these ADHD/Out of the Box brains, they do great things in their own way. Without our ADHDers who would invent things?!? 🙂

Regardless of the challenges, I love my ADHD kid, I can’t imagine my world without his “out of the box” concepts and humor! :-)I hope this blog has helped you learn a little more about ADHD, and whether or not you need to have your child evaluated. Please let me know what else I can share with you about ADHD to help you and your family. I have a post on non-medication treatment options and behavior modification techniques that can be helpful. This parenting journey is a tough one, and with an ADHD child, it is definitely more challenging! Whatever it is your family is dealing with, I hope you enjoy the journey! 🙂