ADHD and Sleep

March 21, 2010

Children and adults with AD/HD may frequently experience problems with sleep. You may know this all too well in your family. Many people have difficultly falling asleep while others nod off easily, but then wake frequently during the night. Unfortunately the resulting lack of sleep exacerbates the primary AD/HD problems with attention, concentration, and impulsiveness.

Phase delayed sleep is the most common sleep disorder that accompanies AD/HD. Phase delayed sleep disorder is a fancy way to say the person goes to bed too late and then has trouble getting up in the morning. The hypothalamus in our brains helps to regulate sleep/wake cycles and is basically malfunctioning in an individual with phase delayed sleep.

Is your family short on rest? Try good sleep hygiene including consistent sleep/wake times and creating comfort around your bedtime routine. Reduce energizing activities a few hours before going to bed. Leave the shades open so sunlight shines through early in the morning; light tells the brain it is time to get up!

When behavioral strategies fail, consider over the counter remedies such as melatonin or valerian root. These are natural supplements that help induce sleep and have some clinical research studies to support their benefits and safe use.

You may also want to talk to your doctor about medication. There are newer non-addicting sleep medications such as lunesta and rozerem that have been FDA approved for chronic use in adults and other medication options for children with sleep issues. In our practice I do prescribe sleep medications temporarily to assist patients in getting on a good sleep schedule. Once sleep is well regulated, we recommend weaning off the medication and using behavioral strategies to continue getting your zzzz’s.

Have a restful night!

Theresa Cerulli, M.D.

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