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Archive for December 2013


Is It Sleep? ADHD? Could it be Something Else?

QUESTION:  I have a four year old son and was told by his preschool teacher he has all the “symptoms” of ADHD.  I have to say your book has saved my sanity because of your “wait and see” approach. Boys need time, love, and our guidance and patience. My question is that he’s a terrible sleeper and what to do about it. He’s also an early riser, and we’re finding one bad night sets him off for days. Some people have said to give him melatonin. Instead, I feed him foods that are high in natural melatonin like bananas and tart cherry juice. When I took him recently to a chiropractor, they told me he had all the signs of ADHD. He’s very intelligent and high energy, and it helps that we’re getting outdoors or to the pool for hours everyday. Thoughts?

ANSWER:  The research on poor sleep and ADHD symptoms is strong. ADHD doesn’t necessarily cause sleep problems, it’s more likely the other way around. Many kids are mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD when they are actually suffering from sleep deprivation. We’re seeing this more and more with the explosion of electronic devices in homes. Less time outdoors. Early push for stressful education.

Even a few minutes shaved off per night add up fast over the weeks. Then we see kids get fidgety, unable to control impulses, act hyperactive (which seems counter to what they should be doing if they’re tired), and very moody. Few of us are getting enough. So the problem isn’t only with children, but the whole family… the whole culture. We’re a sleep deprived nation! If sleep problem persists, check with your pediatrician and/or a pediatric sleep specialist to find out what else may be affecting sleep.

But sleep may not be the actual culprit here. I’ve been alerting families to an often invisible yet significant factor affecting households – interfering with sleep, our mood, and our behaviors. Anxiety. As a nation, we are highly anxious and tense and stressed. It’s been climbing up around us over the years. We all need to start being aware of how anxiety levels at home are on the rise. It’s something all members of the family feel and carry around with them. Anxiety is our most common, perhaps important survival emotion. It trips easily. It’s highly contagious and we pick it up from one another everywhere… school, work, home, even the playground. We’re all overstimulated, worried, and feeling competition breathing down our necks these days. We’re hurried by our techno-driven, accelerated life styles.

And when anxiety trips, even in low levels, sleep is often the first thing to go. Sleep problems may a symptom that your home is anxious. Take steps – like breaking from electronics, get outdoors more, spend down time with one another, and hold onto a more positive daily outlook. Keep your proverbial cup half-full!

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Think about the priceless gifts this time of year

I was in Pete‘s Coffee on a rushed break between appointments when this cup was placed in front of me. I pointed out to the barista that the steamed milk came out like a small swirly heart and that it evoked wonderful memories of my travels through Italy years back. She laughed, told me she does this intentionally for her customers and to prove her point, made another for a small group of us watching. Smiles spread. We looked at one another, nodded. All of us were suddenly caught in a human moment. The distance between us strangers standing in line had lessened.

It got me thinking about the small things we can do – go that extra step – to slow down our frenetic paced lives and connect with others around us. A small gift that costs nothing, other than taking an extra moment.

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Thumbs up! Reminding Yourself the Cup’s Half-Full

One mom paints her thumbnails this way as a daily reminder to keep a check on her outlook. “It’s so easy,” she said, “to fall into negative thinking patterns and see the cup as half-empty. Traffic jams. Hurried car rides to and from school. Holiday stress.” She’s onto something. Our minds do tend to focus on what’s not going well – and we can miss everything that’s good right in front of us. We even morph good things into bad. For example, she recently commented about the pleasant, unusually warm weather to a store clerk who responded… “Yeah… won’t last long. Cruel hoax before the winter comes…” The store clerk was half-joking, but the brain registers negative statements fast – and suddenly the cup’s half-empty. So, this mom showed her the painted thumb and they shared a good laugh. Cup’s back to half-full. Try it out. Put your own spin on it. Choose a bright, energetic color.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.