Less Sleep = More ADHD

A new study out last month makes this important finding:

Sleep deprivation in early childhood is associated with higher risk of ADHD in middle childhood.

Early sleep deprivation and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
Winnie Tso Pediatric Research (2019)1

There are many controllable factors to help kids get sleep so we don’t have to go straight to Ritalin/Adderall.

Light Exposure

Controlling blue light exposure in the evening is important. Computer, mobile devices, and TV’s all emit high levels of blue light that suppress melatonin.

Teens are especially susceptible to light and breaking the circadian code. Not only are they more likely to stay awake in the evening because of homework or their activities, there are also studies showing that teens are very sensitive to light.15 That means exposure to bright light in the evening delays their sleep and lowers their melatonin production. We can do at least two things to help our teens. First, we can prepare an early dinner in the evening so that they have an empty stomach before they go to sleep. They are most likely to fall asleep 3 to 4 hours after dinner. At the same time, we should also educate them by telling them about the importance of darkness and sleep. And perhaps we can establish a sleep-friendly environment for them to do their homework, including a table with a spotlight or lamp that illuminates the table but not their eyes.

Satchin Panda, The Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy, and Transform Your Health from Morning to Midnight, loc. 1437

I have noticed a great benefit from using True Dark glasses. Please see this previous post for more details on blue light hacks.

Meal Timing

A 2-3 hours period of time before bed with no food or caloric beverages can deliver a pronounced benefit to restful sleep. If we challenge our body to digest and sleep at the same time, both will suffer. Removing this barrier to sleep quality is free and important to implement.

School Start Times

Middle and high school age kids have a circadian rhythm shift toward waking up later naturally. When schools start early, sleep disturbance is unavoidable. We need to work together in order to communicate effectively to school districts to support biological norms.

We have started collecting interested individuals to form a community with the purpose of effecting later school start times. Please visit this article below for scientific backing and the form to join this growing community (and spread the word!).

There are many more angles to improving sleep, and I will continue to present them on this page. However, this is just a quick note to demonstrate that not taking action can cause measurable harm – in this example, ADHD which has many downstream consequences.

Let’s work together to fix this!

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41390-019-0280-4

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