Sleep Patterns, Fussy Eating, and Behavioral Problems: What’s the Connection?

1realistutopian By 1realistutopian, 19th Aug 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Parenting

As a mother of a teen with Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD, I was particularly interesting in keeping up-to-date on new research findings. Research that was unavailable when I was a lone-parent, trying my best to cope with very limited information about the condition. Thankfully, academics have focused on ADHD in recent years in an attempt to understand behavioral correlations, causes, and related symptoms.

Information is Power!

Recent research conducted in Europe confirmed that some of the familiar early behaviors that I observed in my child, (then brushed off as "early appearance of terrible-two's phase,") may, in fact, be indicators of further pre-school age behavioral and developmental issues. Many parents realize that something may be wrong, but do not know how to approach the situation.

Regulatory Problems?

Recent European research has allowed for more insight into conditions characterized by what has been termed “regulatory problems”. Regulatory problems manifest as trouble sleeping, feeding difficulties and excessive crying in babies older than 3 months. Conclusions drawn from this research supports the idea that children who express these difficulties are susceptible to develop behavioral problems later. The most common of these behavioral complaints are poor self-control, and the inability to act appropriately in public, but there are a whole range of indicators.

Aside from the sleep issues and the years of figuring out what works and what doesn’t, the feeding difficulties, the tantrums that occurred in public places, the incessant demand for attention, to share some examples. The fact that my child (and thus myself too), were sleep deprived for 7 years was never considered a symptom, just that “something wasn’t quite right”, and medical professionals I turned to figured that it would simply sort itself out, eventually.

Fussy Eating?

In my experience, mealtimes were particularly perplexing. The situation progressed to something far worse than simply having a child that was being a picky eater. Children with or without ADHD seem to be drawn to certain foods. The parent of an ADHD child, however, must make themselves familiar with the labels on packaged foods. Food colorings, additives, and preservatives can all act as triggers to set off the characteristic symptoms. Processed foods are not the only offender, certain sweets and juice/pop drinks are packed with chemicals and colorings that few people can pronounce.

I tried switching to an organic diet, however, that brought another set of challenges. Especially when family members take it upon themselves to provide the attractive goodies, when your child visits.

Of course, when your child is at school age, you just don’t know what they are eating, unless, a packed lunch is provided.

It’s simply impossible to monitor every morsel your child consumes. Parents of ADHD children certainly need to be "savvy" to stay 2 steps ahead of their child. If you know what the "triggers" are, then half the battle is won.

Make No Assumptions: Seek Proffessional Guidance

If you are worried about your baby, in terms of poor sleep patterns, and eating habits, or is displaying some concern in terms of their behavior. Do not assume they are ADHD, one good suggestion is to keep a diary of their activities (how long they sleep, what and how much they eat, and the specific behaviors that are causing concern.) There could be another explanation!

We must not forget that most behavior patterns are learned, and experts suggest that running to comfort a baby every time it wakes in the night might be sending the wrong message and teaches over-dependence. Most babies wake several times but usually drift back off to sleep fairly quickly.

While it is clear more research in this area needs to be conducted, I wish I knew all those years ago, what I know now. I would have learned how to manage some of the behaviors, and cope a little better. ADHD should carry no stigma, for managed correctly, are no different to anyone else. My child begins high school this year, conducts herself in a mature manner, is not medicated, has many friends and is successful in all her endeavors. For millions of bedraggled parents, fumbling in the darkness of not knowing, solutions came in the form of trial and error, personal research, patience and a whole lot of unconditional love for our children.

Let's Celebrate Diversity!

ADHD children should be celebrated. They are some of the smartest, funniest, people on the planet; they are creative, and a joy to be around.

Further Reading:

Park, A., (2011) Does Your Baby Cry at Night? It Could Signal Future Behavior Problems.

See Also:

Intelligence and the ADHD Fallacy:

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