Sleep, Attention Problems, and Bedtimes that Take Forever


Inattention and hyperactivity, key parts of ADHD, are also seen when children are sleep deprived. A large study done in Finland (Pediatrics 123:e857-864, May 2009) showed similar symptoms between sleep deprived children and those diagnosed with ADHD. If children got less than 7 ½ hours of sleep, these symptoms began to appear. Other studies show that about 1/3 of U.S. children suffer from inadequate sleep.

Parents and pediatricians are often on the lookout for problems with school performance. At West End Pediatrics we hope we are asking the right questions during checkups to make sure we’re not missing key concerns. One concern should obviously be the amount of sleep your child is getting and we try to always ask those questions. Think about your child’s sleep patterns if you are starting to have other concerns about school and academic performance.


Up to 16% of parents of school-age children say their children have difficulty falling asleep. Specifically, they are talking about the time from “lights out” to actually falling asleep. A large study from New Zealand (Arch. Dis. Child. 94: 686-689, July 2009) looked into this and followed the children from birth until at least 7 years old. The main findings included: (1) the more activity the kids had during the day, the faster they fell asleep, and (2) the more time they spent being sedentary the longer it took to fall asleep.

Physical activity obviously has all kinds of benefits. Not only is it important for fitness, cardiovascular health, and weight control, but it has relevance to our children’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. It sounds like I’m going on and on about the importance of sleep and maybe that’s a bit of a snore but all in all, it’s enough to keep us pediatricians up at night!

-Contributed by Dr. Phil Dawson, West End Pediatrics