Childhood sleep problems linked to higher risk of ADHD symptoms

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A recent study has found a close link between sleep problems in children and the development of ADHD symptoms in preadolescence.

This research, published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, marks a significant step in understanding ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about 7.5% of children.

The study was led by Llúcia González-Safont, a researcher at the University of Valencia and a visiting lecturer at the Universitat Jaume I in Castellón, Spain.

The research team also included Marisa Rebagliato from the Predepartmental Unit of Medicine at UJI.

They studied 1,244 children from Gipuzkoa, Sabadell, and Valencia, all part of the INMA project, which focuses on children’s health.

The researchers assessed sleep problems in these children at the age of 8 or 9 using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) for ages 6–18. They then looked at ADHD symptoms at ages 10 and 11 using the Conners Parent Rating Scale (CPRS-R).

Sleep is crucial for both physical and mental health, playing a key role in learning, memory, and emotional processing. Problems with sleep can have both immediate and long-term effects.

The findings from this study add to the growing evidence linking sleep issues in childhood with the later development of ADHD symptoms.

These findings suggest that promoting healthy sleep habits in children could be important for preventing ADHD. Previous research has shown that sleep problems and ADHD are both common in children, with about 20% of children experiencing sleep issues and 3–7.5% having ADHD.

Sleep problems are even more prevalent in children with ADHD, affecting between 25% and 73.3% of these kids.

The research team found a strong link between sleep problems at ages 8 and 9 and the development of ADHD symptoms at ages 10 and 11.

This link remained strong even after excluding children who had previous clinical issues, such as being born prematurely or having early symptoms of ADHD.

Dr. González-Safont emphasized the importance of interpreting these findings carefully. “Not all children with sleep problems will develop ADHD symptoms,” she noted. “However, early detection of sleep problems using simple questionnaires in pediatric consultations could help prevent or reduce future behavioral problems like ADHD.”

She suggested that incorporating these screening tools into primary care programs, such as the Children’s Health Programme, could be beneficial.

The results of this study were also presented at the Congress of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology, where the authors were recognized for their excellent communication.

In summary, this study highlights the significant relationship between sleep problems in childhood and the later development of ADHD symptoms. It underscores the importance of addressing sleep issues early on to potentially prevent or mitigate the development of ADHD.

By promoting healthy sleep habits and using simple screening tools in pediatric care, we can take important steps towards improving children’s long-term health and well-being.

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