This morning on the Today Show they talked about how sleep and the lack of it is an issue for our students. They focused mainly on the teenagers, but I want to share with you my experiences with this issue.
My son, Joey, is 8. He's my pride and joy- no matter how aggravating and wild he can be. We've had problems in the past with behavior that the South Carolina doctors said was ADHD. They asked me about his sleeping habits, and I explained that he was not one who liked to fall asleep and it was usually easier to let him sit in my lap then fight with him about staying in bed. They simply said he was ADHD and told me to try my hardest to make him stay in bed. One friend of mine, a school psychologist, didn't buy the answer, but what could I do?
When we moved to Florida, his behavior became more erratic at school, having a feeding frenzy at night (finally coming off his ADHD drug) and more of a problem going to sleep. His doctor was against it because of his weight, but said he thought maybe Joey needed an increase of his ADHD drug. About a week and half later he had his first seizure.
We were referred to All Children's Hospital. Joey was taken off all drugs until further testing. Poor Mr. Froman dealt with him the best he could. I know we were ready to pull our hair out at home. Even Joey was confused and trying his hardest to make sense of what happened.
They did an EEG in the office and said he had irregular brain waves. They scheduled a 2 night sleep study/EEG test to see what was going on. We came home on Thanksgiving morning thankful that we finally had our answer. Joey was having mini-seizures that you almost couldn't tell were going on. They were like lights were on but nobody was home type deal. Sometimes he'd snap out okay, but other times he'd be confused and wouldn't understand what just happened, so he acted out. At night he was having episodes that if they were closer together would have been a full blown seizure, but instead they were keeping him from getting to the final round of sleep. Because of this disruption of sleep, his body and mind knew there was a problem at night time and he became anxious. He didn't want to go to bed and that's why bedtime was a nightmare for all of us. Seriously- this kid would sometimes not go to bed until 1 AM and that's just because of pure exhaustion taking over.
So now he's on medicine (Depakote, which James Patterson scared me about my son taking in one of his novels) for his seizures and a new pill (Vyvanse) for his ADHD. Then there's a little pill at night that helps him sleep. We're going back in on the 26th of October for another sleep study because it's believed that the previous dosage of medicine is not working. He's been having difficulty sleeping and more irritable at school again. Plus, his friend has told me he likes to stare a lot at school and the doctor thinks he's having more mini-seizures at school.
Why share all this? Well for one, to let you know that if this describes your little pride and joy, you're not alone. A second reason, Joey learned a lot of his ADHD behavior because of his sleep problems. If we had known more about the sleep issues and insisted on a sleep study, he probably would not have had some of the same behavior issues he has now. So if you're a teacher, at the next parent conference with a problem child, ask about the sleep behavior and then recommend that they talk to their doctor. Especially if they also seem to have staring spells during the day.