ADHD or Sleep Deprivation?
Does Your Spirited Child Have ADHD or Are They Sleep Deprived?
If you are worried your spirited child may have ADHD because they child run around, ignore requests, cries or gets very upset easily, is aggressive, and their teacher complains of "lack of focus" at school, I want you to keep reading.
Before you talk to the teacher and start the process of assessment, I have a quick and easy way to determine if that is the next right step for your family.
As you can see from the chart above, there are striking similarities between symptoms of ADHD and symptoms of sleep deprivation. No parent wants their child to suffer needlessly. And no parent wants a misdiagnosis for their child (which may include putting a child on medicine that is not necessary).
Here is my guide to eliminating the possibility of sleep deprivation in your spirited child:
Start with the Basics
I have several trusted sources I use. Healthy Children is one. It's very user-friendly and doesn't overwhelm with ads or promotions. Just the facts! And they quote their sources. Here's what they have to say about how much sleep kids need to get.
A consistent bedtime routine is key here.
Stick to a bedtime. Give kids a 30-minute "heads-up" and, if they're younger than 3rd graders, another 10-minute one.
Include a calm, winding down period (hint: start it at the 30-minute "heads-up" where the household is calming down, screens are dark (yes, even yours), and maybe calm music is on (hint: use the same calm music then play it on road trips to get your kids feeling sleepy in the car).
Bedtime stories (for older kids this may become a time for them to tell you about their day) and lots of cuddles is a great way to say "good night."
Once you do all of the above, including making sure your spirited child is getting the recommended amount of sleep, you still have one more thing to do:
Once your child has at least the appropriate amount of sleep and you have a great bedtime routine, you need to wait 4-6 weeks, then reevaluate.
Really. Wait 4-6 weeks! If you still have symptoms then:
Your kids were born in the digital age. You are trying to figure out how to parent in this culture and we have already learned a lot.
I've got another source for you: Sleep.org and they list ways devices can wreak havoc on sleep:
they suppress our melatonin production
they keep our brains alert
they wake us up
At a bare minimum, all devices should be shut down and turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. For kids who are hyper-focused on their devices, it's a great practice to keep them in your bedroom overnight so they don't have access to them if they wake in the middle of the night.
Now that you know your child is not sleep-deprived you can feel good about making sure your child is getting enough sleep every day.
And if your child is still exhibiting ADHD symptoms, it's time to consider, diet. According to SleepFoundation.org there are certain foods to avoid:
heavy meals before bedtime (take heart if you're worried your kid doesn't eat a lot at dinner...a big breakfast can be better than a big dinner!)
caffeine (click HERE for surprising sources of caffeine)
As a Whole30 coach and I can tell you from experience that a healthy diet equals better sleep for most people. If your family is sleeping well for 8-12 weeks and your diet is healthy for 4-6 weeks and you're still having ADHD symptoms, I have one more step for you before you call the doctor.
One-fifth of kids ages 8-17 say they worry. And this can interrupt sleep.
Be active during the day. Lots of exercise and fresh air can ward off anxiety and tire us out so we sleep better!
Avoid overscheduling. Less is more! Kids need downtime to daydream, work out problems, play, and be bored. Involvement in too many scheduled, adult-managed activities can cause anxiety and worry for kids not to mention moms (who take the brunt of shuttling to and fro).
Model mindfulness. This can be meditation, prayer, getting in nature, taking walks, family dinners, talking about feelings, listening, being available, etc.
After 16-18 weeks of awesome sleep habits, 8-12 weeks of cleaner eating, and 4-6 weeks of a calmer lifestyle if your spirited child is still exhibiting ADHD symptoms, then it may be time to talk to your child's teacher and then call the doctor.