A research study in Germany shows that children with ADHD do not process emotional information during sleep as well as their typical peers do. Click here to read about the study on the Medline Plus blog.
When we sleep, we work out all of our problems. It’s the time when our subconscious allows us to work through issues that have caused us stress during the day, and it let’s us feel better the next day. It’s probably where the phrase “sleep on it and you’ll feel better in the morning came from."
It’s helpful to let some time pass after stressful situations because that time allows our mind to work through those emotions that we experienced.
This study shows that, for children with ADHD, this is not the case. We often see children with ADHD who also have behavioral challenges and difficulty with emotional regulation.
In the case of these children, the study finds that it is very important to help them cope with their daily stresses in an active way. Try talking with them and teaching them to acknowledge their feelings and work through them, playing games to act things out, encourage exercise and physical activity to help calm them and relieve tension.
Allowing stressors to pass for ADHD kids without helping the child work through them is likely to have consequences that we don’t see with typical kids. A typical child will be able to “let those stressors go” because their brains are working it out in their down time; whereas the brains of children with ADHD are not working through these emotions as successfully on their own.
Keep this in mind when your child has a rough day or seems stressed or anxious about something. It is more important than we’ve realized to help them work through the little stressors of the day.