In fact, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and its development can depend on whether a person gets enough sleep. Children with ADHD have symptoms that may also signify sleep disorders: overactivity, poor attention, restlessness. Similarity of symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs in approximately 5% of adults and children and manifests into hyperactivity, low control over impulses, easy distractibility and poor memory. That can lead to various problems and issues, for example:

  • Inattention: careless mistakes, inability to follow instructions and organize, troubles with maintaining attention on tasks, avoidance of long-term mental effort, easy distraction, forgetfulness.
  • Hyperactivity: a person always has to be “on the go” and cannot sit still even during leisure time, running around, squirming, getting up.
  • High impulsivity: trouble with waiting for their turn, interruption or intrusion.

The relation between ADHD and troubles sleeping

Children are more prone to sleep disorders, and many disorders typical for adults can also develop in kids. These are insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, periodic limb movement syndrome, somnambulism and abnormal circadian rhythm. Besides, children are prone to experiencing night terrors.

Children with ADHD can often suffer from disrupted sleep, and parents can have troubles at night trying to calm them down. Sleep disorder can also be accompanied by different psychiatric symptoms (depression, anxiety) that may disrupt sleep.

There are four ways sleep disorders can relate to ADHD:

  1. Sleep problems are directly related to ADHD.
  2. Sleep disorders are triggered by another condition that co-occurs with ADHD, for instance, stress and anxiety.
  3. Sleep problems are caused by medical stimulation.
  4. Sleep disorders are common, and not caused directly by ADHD.

In fact, more than 25% of children experience sleep disorders at this or that period, and they’re not conditioned by ADHD. It may be caused by studying, family issues, or health problems.

ADHD and incontrollable movements

Children with ADHD often experience symptoms of periodic limb movement syndrome (PLMS), or as it’s also called – restless legs syndrome (RLS). Such symptoms include the sensation of crawling on the skin that’s relieved with moving, or discomfort. It can strengthen in the evening, or at night: being at rest, a child feels the urge to move. About 25% of people with ADHD have such symptoms. Curiously, the number of movements at night is associated with the degree of hyperactivity during daytime.

Other problems connected with sleep disorder

Children with sleep disorders may experience difficulty breathing at night, and it can range from minor snoring to full sleep apnea. It can be caused by:

  • obesity;
  • adenoids, or enlarged tonsils;
  • allergy;
  • craniofacial abnormalities;
  • neuromuscular disease.

Surprisingly, children with sleep difficulties are not usually sleepy. Instead, they experience sweating at night, bedwetting, retarded development and difficulties with learning and behavior. Snoring also occurs in 30% of kids with ADHD.

Are sleep disorders typical for ADHD?

From 25% to 50% of parents claim that their kids with ADHD have problems with sleep. When researchers compared children with ADHD treated with medications and those who were not treated, they found the following tendencies:

  1. Studies show there is no difference in overall sleep time and time for falling asleep.
  2. Many kids with ADHD suffer from higher restlessness and periodic limb movements at nighttime.
  3. Children with ADHD more often suffer from nightmares, parasomnias and bedwetting.
  4. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase may last longer in kids with ADHD.

Can Stimulants Help?

Sometimes prescription drugs for ADHD may only complicate the issue: parents giving their children stimulants experience face sleep problems more often, and insomnia is a frequent issue. The effects are highly pronounced, when medications are given close to bedtime.

Anyway, untreated ADHD leads to a wide range of problems (interpersonal, educational, cognitive). Children and adults with ADHD suffer from inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that hinder everyday activities and overall success. Properly assigned medications can improve the situation without causing unbearable side effects.