Categories: Sleep Disorders

Is ADHD a Sleeping Disorder in Disguise?

A recent editorial published in the New York Times from Vatsal G. Thakkar, professor of psychiatry at N.Y.U. School of Medicine, discusses his beliefs that many cases of diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, are in reality sleep disorders in camouflage.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Sleep Deprivation

Thakkar says that in his work he sees many adults who believe for all intents and purposes that they have ADHD, when, in fact, they actually are simply sleep deprived.

Thakkar’s revelation raises eyebrows considering that 11 percent of school-aged children are affected by ADHD. Moreover, there’s between an increase of 22 percent of ADHD diagnoses between 2003 and 2007, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Simultaneously, it is now believed that children are sleeping at least one hour less now than they were one century ago.

The professor points to several studies that find a large percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD also have a sleep disorder, like restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, non-restorative sleep, or snoring problems. Thakkar goes on to explain, that for some individuals, particularly kids, being deprived of sleep can actually make them less able to focus and more hyperactive, rather than lethargic.

These disorders cause the disruption of delta sleep, which is deepest sleep — and the stage sleep where we are least like our wakened state. “Laboratory animals die when they are deprived of delta sleep,” Thakkar cites when discussing the importance of delta sleep as this:

Here are just a few excerpts from the Times editorial regarding the studies that are connection ADHD with sleep deprivation.

“One study, published in 2004 in the journal Sleep, looked at 34 children with A.D.H.D. Every one of them showed a deficit of delta sleep, compared with only a handful of the 32 control subjects.”

In an editorial comment to the New York Times piece, Alan G. Pocinki, an internist, revealed this:

“After a poor night’s sleep, many people’s bodies respond to fatigue by making extra adrenaline to keep them going. The extra adrenaline can then further aggravate sleep. Statements like, “Once we got my son’s sleep straightened out, his A.D.D. disappeared,” or “Once my daughter started sleeping better, her anxiety went away” are commonplace.”

Paul Siegel associate professor at Westchester Community College points out other studies reveal that the ADHD symptoms may actually be acted out forms of learning disabilities, family conflict, anger, frustration, bipolar disorder, or even an identity crisis.

What’s the Takeaway?

Professor Thakkar pronounces that we can no longer ignore the connection between ADHD and deep sleep.

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    Amber Merton

    Amber Merton is an accomplished writer on the topics of green living and sleep. Her work has been covered in numerous online publications. Amber has been a regular author on the PlushBeds blog for the past 7 years.

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