About half of the children with ADHD and ODD have sleep problems. There are a number of reasons for this.
Most commonly, the sleep problems stem from the combined influence of their ADHD, their ODD, and their surrounding environment. On some occasions, however, there may be outside medical reasons for the trouble sleeping and the sleep disorder could be the cause of the oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD symptoms.
How Much Sleep
Children need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night. When a child doesn’t get needed sleep, he can have trouble with inattentive and restless. His behavior can become cranky, argumentative, and defiant. In other words, a child with sleep deprivation or even a sleep disorder can display the core symptoms of ADHD and ODD.
What to Do
Wouldn’t it be nice if your child really didn’t have ADHD or ODD? What if you child was just chronically overtired? Well, for many of the children walking around with a diagnosis of ADHD or ODD, this really is the case.
It is extremely important to make sure that lack of sleep is not your child’s underlying problem. No one wants to give her child unnecessary medication. But you especially don’t want to give your child a stimulant to treat his ‘ADHD’, if your child’s real problem is that he can’t relax and fall asleep. Yet that is what many parents are doing.
There are a number of common factors that prevent children from getting enough sleep. These are things that the child does or takes that the child takes that makes him aroused so that it is harder for him to relax and fall asleep.
Here are some examples of things you should consider.
Medications: ADHD medications are usually stimulants. These medications can make it difficult for a child to fall asleep and can exacerbate the defiant behavior problems of ODD and inattentive ADHD symptoms. However, other medications can cause sleep problems in children. Asthma medications in particular commonly cause sleep problems, and asthma is extremely common in children with ADHD and ODD.
Caffeine: Some children take in a lot of caffeine. This comes not only in the form of coffee or tea, but also in chocolate and soda. If your child has sleep problems, you should make sure that he is not ingesting these things late in the day.
Television and Video games: These can arouse children. Your child should not watch television or play a video game within an hour of bedtime.
The Bedroom: Your child’s room should be quiet and a comfortable temperature. There should not be a lot of things in there that can arouse your child. That means he should not have a television or computer there. Nor should he use the room to play video games. If your child has sleep problems, he should use his room primarily for sleeping.
Bedtime Routine: the bedtime schedule should be fairly rigid. Even on weekends you child should go to bed and get up the same time every day.
Natural Sleep Aids:
Melatonin is a safe and natural way to induce sleep. This is a very effective sleep aid for both children and adults. Magnesium is a natural sedative. You can give your child a Calcium magnesium supplement to help him fall asleep easier. Also, foods high in the amino acid, Tryptophan, help induce sleep.
See also: Melatonin, Sleep Enhancement, and ADHD
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Anthony Kane, MD
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