The connection between ADHD and sleep disorders

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 5-10% of children and 2-5% of adults worldwide. Individuals with ADHD typically experience difficulties with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, which can interfere with daily functioning and academic or occupational performance. One common comorbidity that is often associated with ADHD is sleep disorders. In this article, we will explore the connection between ADHD and sleep disorders and how they can affect each other.


Types of sleep disorders that can occur in individuals with ADHD:

  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome: This is a circadian rhythm disorder in which an individual’s sleep-wake cycle is delayed by a few hours compared to the typical sleep schedule.
  • Insomnia: This is a disorder in which an individual has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early.
  • Sleep apnea: This is a disorder in which an individual experiences pauses in breathing during sleep, leading to disrupted sleep and daytime sleepiness.
  • Restless leg syndrome: This is a disorder in which an individual has an irresistible urge to move their legs, especially at night, which can interfere with sleep.


Connection between ADHD and sleep disorders:

Several studies have suggested a bidirectional relationship between ADHD and sleep disorders. ADHD symptoms can lead to poor sleep quality, which can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, leading to a cycle of poor sleep and worsening ADHD symptoms. In addition, some researchers believe that sleep disorders may contribute to the development of ADHD in some individuals.

For instance, sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive impairments, such as poor attention and executive function, which are similar to those seen in ADHD. Moreover, individuals with sleep disorders often experience symptoms that overlap with ADHD, such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.


Treatment options:

The treatment for ADHD and sleep disorders can vary depending on the specific type of disorder and individual needs. Some treatment options for ADHD include medication, therapy, and lifestyle modifications, such as exercise, a healthy diet, and good sleep hygiene.

For sleep disorders, treatment options can include medication, therapy, and lifestyle modifications such as avoiding caffeine, establishing a regular sleep schedule, and creating a comfortable sleep environment. In some cases, treating sleep disorders can also help alleviate ADHD symptoms.


What Not to Do as a Parent:

  1. Avoid Neglecting Sleep Issues:
    • Recognize the impact of sleep disorders on your child’s well-being and seek appropriate help rather than dismissing the problem as insignificant.
  2. Don’t Rely Solely on Medication:
    • While medication may be prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms, it is important to address sleep issues through behavioral and environmental interventions as well.
  3. Avoid Inconsistent Sleep Schedules:
    • Inconsistencies in sleep routines can disrupt circadian rhythms, worsening both ADHD symptoms and sleep problems.


Seeking Help in Singapore:

  1. Child Development Unit, National University Hospital (NUH):
    • NUH provides comprehensive assessment, diagnosis, and treatment options for children with ADHD and related sleep disorders.
    • They offer specialist consultation, sleep studies, and therapy services tailored to individual needs.
  2. KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH):
    • KKH provides expert evaluation and management of sleep disorders in children, including those with ADHD.
    • They offer diagnostic sleep studies, consultations, and multidisciplinary support.


By understanding the interplay between ADHD and sleep disorders, parents can take proactive steps to promote healthy sleep habits in their children. Through consistent routines, a sleep-friendly environment, and seeking professional help when necessary, you can support your child’s overall well-being and improve their ADHD symptoms. Remember, prioritizing healthy sleep is a key component in managing ADHD and fostering your child’s optimal development.