ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and is a term that is used to describe the disease that manifests through impulsiveness, inattentiveness, and hyperactivity in children and adults. Children who are diagnosed with this condition usually have a hard time staying focused and sitting still and often find it difficult to manage their emotions as well as their behavior. These characteristics result in problems in school (often due to poor social skills) and can lead to other mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety; especially when ADHD gets in the way of meeting their goals. There is a lot of controversy with regard to ADHD, some consider this condition non-existent, other claim that the “explosion” in diagnosed cases of ADHD is a conspiracy of drug companies. Yet, the consensus among mental health professional is that ADHD is on the rise and there is a set of established symptoms for diagnosing ADHD in children.
In recent years, ADHD has been more linked to deficits in a child’s sleep since many ADHD children show greater signs of sleepiness during the day. More often than not, if the underlying issue in ADHD is a sleep disorder, then treating the actual sleep disorder will alleviate or even eliminate the symptoms of ADHD. Consequences of sleep deprivation can be confused with symptoms of ADHD in children and consequences of narcolepsy and catoplexy are often mistaken for ADHD symptoms in adults.
One example of this is a thirty year old man described in a New York Times article entitled “Diagnosing the wrong deficit” who was diagnosed with ADHD because the doctor disregarded a criterion that health professionals are supposed to use in diagnosing the condition; they have to trace symptoms back to childhood. The man described in the New York Times article did not start experiencing the ADHD-like symptoms until after he started a new job that required him to wake up at five o’ clock in the morning. This person was known to be a “night owl” and, as it was discovered later, a narcolepsy sufferer. Prescribed ADHD medications made things worse and, finally, the misdiagnosis was corrected. The person got treated for narcolepsy and the problems were solved.
The article also went on to say that in as many as 11% of children diagnosed with ADHD it ends up being a sleep disorder in disguise. As we all know, there has been an explosion of ADHD diagnosis’s since the 1990’s. That was the same decade the Internet was “released” to the public along with what is known as melatonin-inhibiting i-devices: computers, smartphones, game consoles and tablets. All these which have bright backlit screens that inhibit melatonin from secreting in our brains to help us relax and fall asleep. This is why so many children and adults are constantly tired and have difficulties falling asleep at night.
It’s also safe to mention that statistics showing that the percentage of adults who received fewer than seven hours of sleep per night back in 1960 was only 2%. That number is now about 35%.
Other symptoms that go with ADHD-like symptoms are restless leg syndrome as well as other periodical leg movements. Most people think these are just bad habits. It is typically a sign of restlessness or a form of stress release.
We can also add that problems with sleep also lead to mood disorders as well as other mental health conditions. Adolescents and adults with emotional problems are prone to self-medicate on drugs and alcohol. Children with sleep problems are more likely to develop oppositional defiant disorder where they become increasingly moody, irritable, and aggressive.
The best way to alleviate symptoms of ADHD in children and adults is to maintain a regular sleep schedule and stay active, although the latter should not be in the hours leading up to going to bed. You also need to create a more stable home environment and routines around the house. Lastly, you want to keep the young person’s life as predictable as calm and predictable as possible and do not forget to reward the child when they do well. But most importantly, you need to rule out first that ADHD symptoms are not caused by hidden sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or cataplexy.