Lack of sleep can lead to mis-diagnosis of ADHD

By: Meredith TerHaar Email
By: Meredith TerHaar Email

Panama City - Last week WJHG told you about a national report that found some children are being mis-diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, simply because they are not getting enough sleep. Tired kids behave in a way that mimics ADHD symptoms. Panama City sleep expert Dr. Tony McKenzie says the effects of a mis-diagnosis can have long term repercussions.

"An elementary school child needs about 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night," said Dr. McKenzie, a board certified pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine specialist. Is your child getting that much rest? If not "they can have problems in school with attentiveness, with hyperactivity, and alot of issues with behavior problems," said Dr. McKenzie. He says those problems can have long-lasting implications. "The foundation they make in elementary is what they carry on through college and early in life, marriages, relationships and so forth."

Because an overly-tired child displays the same symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, irritability, being easily distracted in class, loss of focus, McKenzie feels some ADHD patients are mis-diagnosed. "Pediatricians and psychiatrists are excellent at making the diagnosis but I think that definitely sleep is underappreciated and not looked at enough."

Experts say a regular bedtime routine can go a long way toward alleviating the symptoms. "When children are able to control staying in their room all night and self-soothe, then they are able to control themselves during the day," said Dr. Stephanie Donaldson with the Center for Pediatric Psychology.

Other doctors say it makes sense, and can help moms and dads, too. "If parents are better able to manage kids' sleep behaviors, they're better able to manage other behaviors also," said Kate Eshleman with the Cleveland Clinic.

Experts say if improved bedtime rituals don't help symptoms, it may be true ADHD, and a neurological assessment is warranted.

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