Doctor Says ADHD Children Could Be Sleep Deprived

14/08/2014 16:51 | Updated 22 May 2015

Doctor says ADHD children could be sleep deprived

A doctor in the US has suggested that some children diagnosed with ADHD could be in need of more sleep.

Vatsal Thakkar, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine estimates that more than a third of children and a quarter of adults diagnosed with ADHD actually have sleep problems.

He says that sleep deprivation, especially in children, does not actually cause lethargy, but very similar symptoms to ADHD, including hyperactivity, an inability to focus, aggression and forgetfulness.

He says that the similarity between the symptoms along with a lot of doctors' poor understanding of sleep disorders, could cause confusion in some patients.

"While there is no doubt that many people have ADHD, a substantial proportion of cases are really sleep disorders in disguise," Professor Thakkar says.

The Mail reports that British sleep experts support Professor Thakkar's theory and say it is no coincidence that the rise in ADHD diagnoses in the nineties came at a time when people were getting less sleep.

Recent research suggests that the number of adults who get fewer than seven hours sleep each night has risen from 2 per cent in 1960 to more than 35 per cent in 2011.

Dr Neil Stanley, a British sleep expert, told the paper that today's children get at least an hour less sleep than they did 100 years ago, while many ten-year-olds do not get the recommended ten hours a night.

"Ask any parent to describe a sleep-deprived child and the characteristics are not dissimilar to ADHD," Dr Stanley said. "Some children do have ADHD, but others are sleep-deprived and we are calling it ADHD. Some perfectly normal children who, for whatever reason, are chronically sleep-deprived, are being diagnosed with ADHD by their GPs. Many doctors also have very little knowledge of sleep disorders."

Professor Thakkar concluded his study by advising parents who have children who they believe are not getting enough sleep to limit their access to electronic devices in the evening, ensure that their child is going to bed at an appropriate time (aiming for ten to 11 hours for school-age children, seven to eight for adults) and to consider undergoing a sleep study.

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