Could some ADHD be a type of sleep disorder? That would fundamentally change how we treat it.
Over the past two decades, U.S. parents and teachers have reported epidemic levels of children with trouble focusing, impulsive behavior and so much energy that they are bouncing off walls. Educators, policymakers and scientists have referred to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as a national crisis and have spent billions of dollars looking into its cause.
What if, as a growing number of researchers are proposing, many kids today simply aren’t getting the sleep they need, leading to challenging behaviors that mimic ADHD?
That provocative and controversial theory has been gaining momentum in recent years, with several studies suggesting strong links between ADHD and the length, timing and quality of sleep. In an era in which even toddlers know the words Netflix and Hulu, when demands for perfectionism extend to squirmy preschoolers and many elementary-age students juggle multiple extracurricular activities each day, one question is whether some kids are so stimulated or stressed that they are unable to sleep as much or as well as they should.
Growing evidence suggests that a segment of children with ADHD are misdiagnosed and actually suffer from insufficient sleep, insomnia, obstructed breathing or another known sleep disorder. But the most paradigm-challenging idea may be that ADHD may itself be a sleep disorder. If correct, this idea could fundamentally change the way ADHD is studied and treated.
The author of “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep” claims his self-published, cult-hit book will help your kids fall sleep. Sounding too good to be true, I recruited two children notorious for blowing right past their bedtimes – my own kids. Here’s what happened. (Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)