Can sleep deprivation cause ADHD? I never linked the two, but Vatsal G. Thakkar did in a New York Times opinion piece. Thakkar is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine in New York and an ADHD sufferer. Or is he? Thakkar was misdiagnosed with ADHD. He found an underlying sleep issue that, when properly addressed, removed all of his ADHD symptoms.
Thakkar notes that we Americans get less sleep than we used to 50 years ago. As he says, “It might be just a coincidence, but this sleep-restricting lifestyle began getting more extreme in the 1990s, the decade with the explosion in ADHD diagnoses.” Note: ADHD jumped 50% more between 2001 and 20011.
To be fair, the 1990s were a decade in which many lifestyle changes occurred or accelerated into overdrive: the internet multiplied our screen hours each day; noise and air pollution reached ever further out of the cities and into suburban and ex-urban areas; additives in food began to outnumber actual food ingredients; fast food became primary food for too many people. One and all of these could be the culprit for the ADHD surge.
More than 4,000,000 US children have prescriptions for ADHD drugs. I don’t know how high the number goes if you add in all the adults with ADHD prescriptions. I have many ADHD symptoms that I’ve managed without medicine. I love the idea that changing bedtime could eliminate distractibility. I can’t personally change air and noise pollution. It’s not realistic to think I’m going to cut back on my screen time. I do try to eat whole foods, but when I eat outside the home, who knows?
Thakker took a battery of expensive and involved tests to diagnose the specifics of his sleep deprivation. But my personal sleep hours I can measure and change. I like the idea of trying a non-medical, non-invasive absolutely free potential remedy. Really, who out there wouldn’t like an excuse (a doctor’s excuse – the most irreproachable of all!) to stop work a little earlier, tape Conan rather than watch him live, read that article some other time (not this article, another one!) and just go to sleep?
In fact, I think I’ll take a nap right now. And maybe we should let the kids sleep in tomorrow. Just to see…