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Home and family
27 April 2012

Naughty, hyperactive or sleep-deprived?

Internet porn notwithstanding, these are remarkably safe times to be a child. Nevertheless, some threats are growing – such as the risk of suffering from various kinds of behavioural disorder:

  • “Diagnoses of attention hyperactivity disorder among children have increased dramatically in recent years, rising 22 percent from 2003 to 2007, according to the [US] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

However, as the New York Times reports “many experts believe that this may not be the epidemic it appears to be”:

  • “Many children are given a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., researchers say, when in fact they have another problem: a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea. The confusion may account for a significant number of A.D.H.D. cases in children…”
  • “The symptoms of sleep deprivation in children resemble those of A.D.H.D. While adults experience sleep deprivation as drowsiness and sluggishness, sleepless children often become wired, moody and obstinate; they may have trouble focusing, sitting still and getting along with peers.”

The irony is that some of the drugs used to treat ADHD can themselves cause insomnia – such are the dangers of over-medicalising our problems. Moreover, for all the talk of “sleep disorders”, sleep deprivation doesn’t actually require a medical cause:

  • “Indeed, sleep experts note that children who lose as little as half an hour of needed sleep per night — whether because of a sleep disorder or just staying up too late texting or playing video games — can exhibit behaviors typical of A.D.H.D.”

So while we shouldn’t leave the complexities of internet access filters to parents alone, knowing when to operate the simpler technology of the off-switch should certainly be within their grasp.


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