Sleep vs. ADHD: 21 Questions to Ask

Jon Konen
District Superintendent

As a teacher or parent have you ever sat and watched a kid buzz around like a bubble bee and wonder where that kid gets all his energy? I think about all the renewable resources our state of Montana is trying to tap: wind, solar, water, and more. How can we hook up a turbine to this kid and light the room or run my laptop?

Jokes aside, there can more going on with this kid then we even know. Recent research is finding that ADHD is being diagnosed at an alarming rate, especially in the 1990's and 2000's...which incidentally is connected to the rise of the digital world!

Did you know that only 1 and 5 pediatricians have training in sleep disorders? That is alarming to me because lack of sleep has many of the same symptoms associated with it that are similar to Attention Deficient / Hyperactivity Disorder.

Are you seeing symptoms of over activity, aggression, impulsivity, tantrums, and other annoying behaviors? It could be a lack of sleep. Sleep patterns in students can drastically affect a student's academic success, as well as social interactions. These students have poorer coping skills, show signs of anger, depression, and difficulty with change.

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That conversation with a parent should first start with a question similar to this, "Tell me about your child's sleep patterns?" This will give us some information to work with...but, we can't stop there. What may seem normal to a parent, may be detrimental to their child's sleep and those conversations can be difficult. Here are a series of questions you can use to dig deeper:

  1. What happens after school each day?
  2. What is your child's bed time?
  3. Are there electronics in their room (TV, digital device, etc...)?
  4. What is the normal routine right before bed time?
  5. How dark is the child's room?
  6. What noises occur in and around the home right before bed time, and while they are in bed?
  7. Do you read or do an activity with your child while they are in bed?
  8. What words do you use to get them to bed (is there arguing or compliance)?
  9. Once your child is in bed, how long does it take them to get to sleep?
  10. Have you ever tracked the amount of time from being in bed to actual sleeping?
  11. Have you noticed any patterns with this latency to sleep?
  12. Does your child stay a sleep?
  13. If your child wakes up, what do you do?
  14. How many hours do they sleep each night?
  15. When do you wake your child in the morning?
  16. How do you wake your child in the morning (what words do you use)?
  17. How much time is there between waking up and going to school?
  18. Do you keep your routines consistent day and night or do things change a lot?
  19. If the student travels between divorced parents or care givers, do you communicate about sleep and have similar routines?
  20. If the student has sleep problems, have you talked with your pediatrician?
  21. Have you ever had, or consider, a sleep study done by a professional provider?

After we have some solid information about the student's sleep patterns, we must move past judgment and go to solution. How can we team together with parents for the success of the child?

Before an ADHD diagnosis is determined, I believe we need to take the time to analyze sleep patterns. We owe it to our students and parents!

To read more about this topic of Sleep vs. ADHD here is a great article.

Additional ADHD Resources

Jon Konen