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sleep prior to adhd diagnosis

SunshineF profile image
11 Replies

I’m so confused and haven’t been able to find an answer to this- my son was always a great sleeper. Never had any issues falling asleep or staying asleep even once his behavior started becoming a problem. After A year and half of challenging behavior and receiving behavioral therapy, he was formally diagnosed with adhd and his sleep was still great. Then all of a sudden he started having problems staying asleep.

So my question is is it even possible for someone with adhd to have had a history of no sleep issues?

I’m starting to question the diagnosis. I just don’t understand how his sleep patterns could have changed for the worse all of a sudden. presumably he always had ADHD so why wouldn’t he have had any sleep problems earlier? (Side note: his sleep patterns changed before he was on any stimulants so that’s not the cause)

thanks for your feedback!

11 Replies
GhostOrchid profile image

This is a good question. I don't know, but my son's sleep was always good until out of the blue it wasn't. His sleep habits started to change prior to starting stimulants, but before his diagnosis. They got exponentially worse after starting meds. He easily could have been diagnosed a year or two earlier--prior to sleep disruptions, but we held out on diagnosis & medication. I always assumed that the sleep disruption came with the aging process & stress associated with developmental milestones.

I'm always second guessing diagnosis so I sympathize with you. Did you get a full psych evaluation or did the pediatrician diagnosis based off the parent/teacher questionnaires? With my son things started spiraling rapidly and all the psychologist had a 6-12 month wait so we started with a pediatrician. I didn't feel comfortable with the diagnosis until we finally got a psych evaluation that supported the diagnosis.

SunshineF profile image
SunshineF in reply to GhostOrchid

thanks for your response. Well I’m not really sure as ridiculous as that sounds. He was evaluated by two different therapist - an OT and mental health professional (social worker or a psychologist I’d have to go back to his paperwork) but they just conducted his initial eval to qualify him for his IEP plan. In the meantime, he was seeing a developmental ped who we met with for a year plus before she formally made the diagnosis based on her observations in the appts, our feedback, his pre-K teachers, and the therapists he saw during school hours. So I guess in writing that out, no the diagnosis likely wasn’t a full psych evaluation.. who typically performs those— guessing an actual pediatric psychiatric?

GhostOrchid profile image
GhostOrchid in reply to SunshineF

Hopefully, someone more knowledgeable than me will chime in here. ;) My son was diagnosed 2-yrs ago and my daughter 6-months ago, so I'm still learning and by no means an expert. In our case, it was a psychologist and psychologist associate that did our son's and daughter's Psyc Evaluations. They collected the same parent/teacher questionnaires as the doctor, but they also spent 4-6 hours alone with my children performing other tests including IQ and evaluating their behaviors. A few weeks after the one-on-one session, she met with us to discuss her findings and gave us a report summarizing the test results, the diagnosis, and a list of resources. The reports were 12 & 28 pages. The end result was still a diagnosis of ADHD (same as the pediatrician), but with some insight on how his IQ or comorbid conditions impact it as well. I think psychiatrists perform the evaluations too.

Onthemove1971 profile image

I would recommend a sleep study to really find out if there are sleep issues and what kind. Children with ADHD have a hard time slowing down their mind and body to sleep.

Children also grow and change. One minute they are terrified of the dark can't be alone and the next we can get them to sleep alone.

Good luck. I would try what the doctors recommend and then you can say you tried it, if it doesn't work it won't work and if it does work it will be life changing.

kdali profile image

Mine did not have regular sleep issues 🤷‍♀️

Imakecutebabies profile image

My son with ADHD does not have sleep issues. He used to not be able to sleep without me, but even that has changed as he's gotten older--and my younger son without ADHD is the same way. We did have to adjust the timing of his medication when he started, because it was making it hard for him to fall asleep.

Perhaps your child is going through a normal sleep regression? Perhaps he's suddenly discovered letters and numbers and it keeps him awake? (Mine used to count or repeat the alphabet while trying to fall asleep.)

If it persists, you can always request a sleep study.

kalaokauai24 profile image

hey Sunshine , I was thinking this while wide awake at 3am . I’m middle aged now and in the last 2 years my sleep changed up until then easily fell asleep and stayed asleep , now I don’t really sleep and then sleep way too hard and long in day time for my body to try catch up to. So great question and please let me know if you find any news about it ! Thank you and good luck

Elijah1 profile image

Yes, sleep behaviors can change in the ADHD population. Recommend discussing this change with the pediatrician/primary care provider to determine if it is related to ADHD or to something else that needs further investigation.

Poppy234 profile image

My daughter with adhd had sleep issues from day 1. She slept late and little as a newborn and 18 years later struggles to sleep.

Peerandparent profile image

You don't mention how old your son is. There are lots of things that can disrupt sleep, and given the proximity to the diagnosis, perhaps it's that thinking about the diagnosis and what it means is keeping him up. Even at a young age learning you have ADHD can have quite the impact. If he doesn't understand what it is, or what it means for him, it can certainly disrupt his sleep!

Aside from the diagnosis, has there been any sort of upheaval in his routine at home or school? Diet changes? Environmental changes? Health changes? If his teacher(s) have been told about the diagnosis, he may be treated differently in the classroom (for better or worse)

I also recommend reading up on sleep hygiene. From time to time I experience significant sleep disruption (often/usually due to dwelling on certain thoughts) There are a lot of things in our environment, routine and behaviour that can help improve our sleep.

As far as it being the correct diagnosis, there are a lot of things that can mimic ADHD, so a bit of skepticism is okay. Get a full assessment, and/or a second opinion. The good news is that stimulant medication (especially at starter doses) carry very little risk, and there are a lot of behavioural and environmental interventions for ADHD that are helpful whether or not he actually has it.

Also remember that having ADHD doesn't mean he can't have something else as well.

momlife7 profile image

Mine has always been a good sleeper but honestly he goes hard. We keep him busy and active as a survival strategy for us the more energy he burns the better the behavior. He does have more issue’s falling asleep in the winter specially Jan and Feb when we are less active.

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