Dr. Syed Naqvi, a pediatrician and pediatric sleep expert at University of Texas Southwestern's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, sees the connection in his patients. In a recent article published in Science Daily, he mentions the different impact sleeplessness has on children versus adults: "If adults don't get enough sleep, they'll appear sleepy, but children don't do that. They show ADHD-like behavior instead – [children] are hyperactive or inattentive.” He has personally treated many children with ADHD whose symptoms only diminished after improving sleep quality and increasing sleep duration. Sometimes it is actually ADHD medication that is the root of the sleep and behavior problems, so he advises that pills may not be the best first intervention.
Dr. Naqvi recommends that parents first determine whether sleep disturbances are affecting their child by: 1) watching for signs of snoring or short pauses in breathing during sleep, 2) tracking the duration of nighttime sleep and any daytime sleepiness, and 3) monitoring academic performance after starting ADHD medications. If any abnormalities are identified, he strongly suggests seeking the help of a sleep expert.
Although a direct connection between sleep and ADHD has not yet been revealed in depth, it is important to understand that the potential connection should not be ignored because these two things may be deeply connected.