Sleep, Attention and Behavior

Pediatric research studies suggest that sleep is not only essential to good health, but also to a child’s learning, attention and behavior. Children who consistently sleep fewer than ten hours a night before age three, are 3 times more likely to have hyperactivity and impulsivity problems by age six. Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. says that the symptoms of sleep-deprivation and ADHD, including impulsivity and distractibility, are very similar.

Ruling out sleep issues is an important part of diagnosing ADHD, according to Dr.Owens. Children who have special needs seem to be even more vulnerable to the effects of too little sleep.  Sleep deprivation can worsen challenges they might have in a variety of areas, including attention, recall, executive function and self-regulation.For school-age kids, research has shown that adding as little as 27 minutes of extra sleep per night makes it easier for them to manage their moods and impulses so they can focus on schoolwork.  Parents should also be aware of red flags that there might be an underlying cause interfering with their child’s sleep: sleep-disordered breathing (SDB).  Signs and symptoms of SDB include: open mouth breathing posture, snoring, audible breathing, grinding teeth during sleep, frequent arousals/fragmented sleep, and night terrors and sleepwalking.  Parents who observe any of these behaviors should consult with their pediatrician, who may refer them to a medical airway specialist.

Find additional information on sleep-disordered breathing in the February 2018 issue of the ASHA Leader at

For 6 more important reasons your child needs sleep, and how to create a better bedtime routine, check out this article in Parents Magazine:








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