More than five million children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder over the last five years, but new research now says millions of them may have been misdiagnosed. Instead, researchers believe there are some simple reasons that children are inattentive and the prime culprit could be poor sleep habits.
For months, Sellwood, Oregon mother "Liz Smith" has been in a constant battle with her 3 1/2 year old son Gabe over bed time. "He just doesn't want to sleep. If he does take a nap and fall asleep, he might not go to bed until 10:00 at night," she said. It's a battle until recently, she had been losing. "We lie down with him until he's asleep. It might take 30 minutes, it might take an hour."
And even then, he'd still get out of bed to be with his parents. The result was much worse than just lack of alone time for mom and dad. "There's a little bit more hyper behavior. He'll sing songs really fast and he'll kind of run from here to there and he will not maybe listen to what we were doing and stick with the program." Behaviors that sound similar to ADHD. "I think any parent might think that. As a new parent you're like, 'Gosh, is this what every kid is going through?' Less than half the time they actually have ADD," said Portland family psychologist, Dr. Dan Rubin. "The main symptom of ADD is inattention. The kid will seem distracted, will have a hard time organizing and doing chores and organizing school work." But only a formal diagnostic assessment can really tell a parent if their child has ADHD. "There are a lot of explanations of inattention. Of course sleep is a big deal and when I'm not sleeping well, my attention is weaker," he added.
The New England Center for Pediatric Psychology found after testing more than 700 kids and their families, kids who didn't sleep in their own bed were seven times more likely to have ADHD-like symptoms. And eight times more likely if they didn't have a regular bedtime. But they didn't actually have ADHD. "Human beings do very well with schedules and limits. We like consistency. A regular bed time and sleeping in our own bed provides consistency," Rubin said.
A change in sleep habits seems to be working for the Smith family. Gabe's parents set goals and rewards for how many days in a row he can sleep in his own bed. As a result, they say his hyperactive behavior is getting better.
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