An Open Letter to the Today Show

They said what?!

Dear Today Show Family,

I’m a Today Show junkie. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I tune in and within minutes I know the weather forecast, how to make a refreshing Gazpacho and that, unfortunately, ‘80s fashions are back in style. I trust Matt, Natalie, Al and Savannah to give me infotainment that has been thoroughly researched and interview experts who actually know the best food excursions in Puerto Vallarta or if gum really does take seven years to digest (no). At the very least, I expect them to know more than I do.  

However, I am sad to say that this morning my trust in you was irrevocably destroyed. I watched my friend Natalie interview two “pediatric sleep specialists” who advised parents how to get kids back on good sleep cycles for the beginning of the school year. As I was half listening to their proficient benign advice while making my bed, I heard Natalie ask, “If kids don’t get the optimal amount of sleep, what kind of behavior problems do we see?” To which one of these sleep specialists answered, “ADHD, learning disorders, anxiety and depression, obesity ... studies show kids really don’t perform as well in school which is really no surprise.”

Wait, what? I absolutely could not have heard that correctly. My head snapped up like my dog’s does when I say “ball” and I saw, emblazoned across the bottom of the screen, “Poor sleeping habits may lead to ADHD, obesity, learning disorders and behavioral problems.”

Yep, I heard correctly, this self-proclaimed expert said lack of sleep can cause ADHD and learning disabilities. I can just imagine thousands of parents thinking all their learning disabled kid needed was a few good night's sleep and all would be right in their world. Really, Today Show?!

Although I was 99.9 percent sure this statement was not at all valid, I researched this claim anyway. This is what I know for sure (from www.help4adhd.org/en/treatment/coexisting/WWK5D):

  • Two-thirds of children with ADHD are reported to have at least one co-existing condition.
  • The most common co-existing conditions include learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, behavioral disorders and sleep disorders.
  • Since sleep disorders can mimic ADHD symptoms, children who have sleep problems can be misdiagnosed with ADHD.

I have read that snoring can lead to ADHD due to either poor sleep or a drop of oxygen in the blood. But, in each article I read identifying snoring as a cause of ADHD, the ADHD symptoms usually dramatically improve with better sleep, thus raising the question as to the validity of the ADHD diagnosis.

Just to make double-sure, I called my go-to for all things cognitive, neuropsychologist Dr. Ellen Preen, and read her the quote. After she stopped laughing, she informed me that this was indeed, as I thought, “pseudoscience.” 

She explained that “there is a correlation relationship between sleep disorders and ADHD/learning disabilities, but no causality.” What does this mean? In causality, one thing causes the other, like smoking causes lung cancer. But in a correlation, certain things may happen at the same time but one does not cause the other. 

According to Dr. Preen, ”there is no causation between sleep deprivation and learning disorders and ADHD.” She went on to say, “a person with prolonged sleep deprivation can exhibit symptoms of ADHD, learning difficulties, and/or mood disorders; and exacerbate these preexisting conditions.” When someone is sleep deprived, all they need to do is get caught up on their sleep and magically, no more symptoms!

Today Show family, I am very disappointed in you. How many other un-and-half truths have you told me? How many other pseudo-experts sat opposite Matt or Savannah or Natalie misleading your loyal followers? For these reasons, I feel I must end our longstanding relationship. It’s not you, it’s me. Also, I kind of have a thing for George Stephanopoulos.


Sue Schaefer, M. ED., M.A.T

Proclaimed an Education Expert by my Friends and Others Who Know What They’re Talking About

About this column: Susan Schaefer, director and founder of Academic Coaching Associates, is an academic coach, student advocate, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com. You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

john davidson September 01, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Nope,never have apologised for folks smoking. Live and let live without criminalization for something you might disaprove of!
Brian L. September 01, 2012 at 04:54 PM
That doesn't really make him closet....
Brian L. September 01, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Yeah....that seems wildly appropriate for this conversation.
john davidson September 01, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Id never make that claim and could care less if he is gay or not........
Brian L. September 01, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Wasn't referring to gay. I meant if he admitted he was a smoker, then he isn't a closet smoker.
Bob Loblaw September 01, 2012 at 05:45 PM
As opposed to people like you, "dan," who create burner accounts to show everyone what a big, tough, hetero-normative man they are! Why do people like you choose to voluntarily expose your ignorance, particularly during discussions that have zero to do with sexual orientation or partisan politics?
john davidson September 01, 2012 at 06:01 PM
He said closet smoker,his words not mine. It means he smokes just not very often and not in front of folks............Which in itself is not right. The man obviously feels he has been victimized by the anti-smoking crusade but doesnt have the bollocks to fight back except to snivel from a corner! Of course the way his network is owned by the anti-smoking and public health Lobby itd probably be his job if he manned up and fought back!
Brian L. September 01, 2012 at 06:15 PM
"Are you a corporate executive facing these or other charges? You don't need double talk! You need Bob Loblaw! After all, why should you go to jail for a crime somebody else noticed." Very nice name.
Susan Schaefer September 02, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Very funny Craig! And to answer your question, no, I don't. Sue
Susan Schaefer September 02, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Thanks for your story Colin. I'm sure many readers share similar experiences and reading your comments has made them feel they are not alone in their struggles.. Sue
Susan Schaefer September 02, 2012 at 12:20 AM
Dan, Please so not assume what know what I do and do not know. I know a wet fish when I see one. Sue
Laura September 02, 2012 at 10:31 AM
To imply that sleep deprivation can be magically fixed by catching up on one's sleep is as disingenuous as you claim people are being when they say sleep deprivation can lead to ADHD. I've suffered from sleep problems all my life and suffered from a very serious form of sleep deprivation about ten years ago (due to a case of depression that had escalated into a severe sense of anxiety). I went for about six months barely sleeping and it was a nightmare that effected my level of concentration, my ability to speak, and left me in a constant state of red alert (when I felt myself starting to shut down my adrenalin would course through me and make me crazed). Not to mention what it did to me physically. Even after I figured out what was happening to me and began to get "caught up" on my sleep, it took months for the other symptoms to abate. When things starting leveling out, there was nothing instant or "magical" about it. Having gone through most of my life, especially that year about a decade ago, I don't think it's preposterous to think that some children diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities might actually be suffering from sleep deprivation. I can only imagine how much better I might have done in school if I wasn't falling asleep in class the way I was. It is a horrible feeling and shouldn't be brushed off lightly the way this author has done.
Mike Bruno September 02, 2012 at 11:25 AM
@John Davidson: You don't seem to grasp that statistics are about as powerful a scientific measure as can be had. One needs to be careful of confusing correlation with causation in certain cases, but that is not the case with the correlation between smoking and negative health affects. It is really unambiguous that smoking is bad for you and nicotine has an addition profile comparable to cocaine and heroin. The point is really settled. I would be amused by your defense of tobacco use, but I fear that you might be telling young people that there is no proof that smoking is bad. Do you tell people that there is no truth to evolution also? How about that the sun orbits the earth? And for the record, I don't care if people smoke, just don't smoke around me. Smokers don't realize how annoying it is for non-smokers following a smoker by even 50 feet on city street.
Mike Bruno September 02, 2012 at 11:34 AM
@Terry Flanagan: I am surprised to hear terms like "merely statistical analysis". That's what science is. That's what proof is. Proof is mathematics and proof doesn't have to be 100% correlation. You are right that the biggest mistake is the confuse correlation with causation, but that is not the case with tobacco and health effects. Yes, a non-smoker can get lung cancer and heart disease, but a smoker gets them at a statistically significant higher rate.
john davidson September 02, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Mike Bruno have you ever looked at the DOLL and HILL doctors study on smoking and LC! Thats where we find the first real use of statistical analysis. Doll taking his education in Nazi Germany from Hitlers finest propagandists in their new anti-smoking movement pushed by the Fuhrer himself. Doll in 1950 used that same science to push todays anti-smoking movement and followed it up for 50 years until 2004. The same questionaire science was used there as in the second hand smoke Junk Studies........... Here's my all-time favorite "scientific" study of the the anti-smoking campaign: "Lies, Damned Lies, & 400,000 Smoking-Related Deaths," Robert A. Levy and Rosalind B. Marimont, Journal of Regulation, Vol. 21 (4), 1998. You can access the article for free on the Cato Institute's wesbite, Cato.org. This article neither defends nor promotes smoking. Rather it condemns the abuse of statistics to misinform and scare the public. Levy, by the way taught Statistics for Lawyers at Georgetown University Law School. There is also a popular law school class called How to Lie With Statistics.
john davidson September 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Nazi War on Cancer – Proctor “Indeed, as early as 1936—the year that the young Richard Doll was attending the lectures in Frankfurt of the SS radiologist Professor Hans Holfelder—they had gathered sufficient statistical evidence to prove the cancerous hazards of what they labelled “passive smoking” (passivraucher).” http: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1117732/ Doll’s own account. Oral History – Sir Richard Doll. “Along with a number of my colleagues, I had the experience of actually visiting Nazi Germany and seeing what was happening there. There was a St Thomas’ man called Stephen Taylor and he had the very sensible idea of arranging trips to foreign countries to study medicine and see how medicine was taught in those countries.” “And then in 1936, we had a similar week in Frankfurt and we had some extraordinary experiences there of the effects of Nazism.”
john davidson September 02, 2012 at 04:03 PM
“One outstanding event was a lecture we were given on radiotherapy. And we were told that the radiotherapist was a keen Nazi and he would expect us all to stand up and say “Heil Hitler” in response when he came in, which of course we didn’t. But he came in and said “Heil Hitler”and then, believe it or not, in the course of the lecture he showed slides in which the X-ray beams were illustrated as Nazi storm troopers and the cancer cells had all got Jewish Emblems on them. So, we didn’t require many experiences of that sort to realize that there was something evil that had to be eliminated from the world.” “As far as I was personally concerned the only other event that I remember was drinking with some of the German medical students in a cafe and my criticising the way the Jews were being treated and immediately being told that I must be a Jew myself, which I denied that I was, which in fact I’m not. And it sounds ridiculous now but I was made to stand up on a table whilst they measured my ankles because apparently thick ankles were one of the physical signs of being a Jew. As it happens I haven’t got thick ankles so they had to drop the idea that I was Jewish. But that event stands out in my mind as to the way the students were behaving.” http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/4/327.full.pdf He was in fact a Communist, which wasn’t favoured either.
Mike Bruno September 02, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Well, despite fearing another 50 off-topic comments from you, I will say that I agree with you that it is easy to use statistics to befuddle those not familiar with statistics. I have quite a few university-level statistics classes under my belt and often spot misleading use of numbers. On the matter of tobacco and health effects, you are objectively wrong. The tobacco companies even admit it. I don't know what your agenda is, but I might guess that you are a smoker trying to rationalize not undertaking the very hard task of quitting. Go ahead and smoke, just not near me please.
john davidson September 02, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Correlation is not causation and never has been,in fact the linkage between smoking and LC is so weak the facts are 94% of life long smokers never get LC. Dose makes the poison and everything in nature is a carcinogen even OXYGEN at the right levels. Alcohol is a carcinogen when it evaporates into the air yet we arent outlawing drinking or bars as of yet! Statistics is the art of DECEPTION you can create any ILLUSSION you want with it''see below'' Because of epidemiology ie statsistical sampling we have a public health sector and medical science thats become so corrupt in its dash for GRANT MONEY nobody any longer cares about science....Every morning we get bombarded by the latest miracle study on ...................fill in the blank. Americans and the world over are now immune to the medical scare of the day PROPAGANDA. I had thought forever they had factually discovered that smoking via a microscope had caused cancer,yet we find that was never ever the case oh but they tried and never ever could prove anything against active smoking! Then comes along second hand smoke,then thirdhand smoke,then second hand obesity the list of B.S. and propaganda goes on and on! Should I continue or do you get whats going on thru manipulation of science and press by headline! The lowering of levels over the last 15 years of what constitutes a disease entity just so these prohibitionists can claim EPIDEMICS and forge thru with even more draconian laws against
john davidson September 02, 2012 at 04:21 PM
We The People,we are not guenea pigs nor are we test subjects for MADD SCIENTISTS in a lab or even on questionaire studies. We are the people,we are the nation and we are the government. You nor anyone else has the right to create a fear and then condemn 20-25% of the population into criminality. ie smoking bans. The time is here when we need to take back OUR country and reinstitute freedom and choise along with rugged individualism that made this country great.. If you feel the need to continue the harrassament and criminal laws against the rest of us you need take but a look upon yourself as these same deeds and thoughts will surely outlaw even yourself.
john davidson September 02, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Mike Bruno the Tobacco Companies admitted nothing,they were forced under order of a Federal court to make statements the government prepared for them to make! http://topnews360.tmcnet.com/topics/a... WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department was in a new dispute Friday with the tobacco industry over the government's landmark lawsuit against the companies. The government has prepared corrective statements it wants the companies to be forced to make about the health hazards from smoking. But the tobacco companies don't want those proposed statements put in the public record before they get a chance to review them. FORCED TO MAKE.......SOUNDS like somebodys not playing fair doesnt it.So if the tobacco companies make statements then the nazi anti-smokers get to say see even the tobacco companies admit this!!!!! force isnt that what hitler did at bayonet point! ...
Mike Bruno September 02, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Unfollowing this post. Sheesh!
Nightcrawler September 02, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Personally, I think the Patch should charge admission to this guy Davidson's posts. What a gem.
Colin C. September 02, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Nightcrawler; A little research in the DSM-IV-TR (the current version of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Asso.) might answer some questions.
Nightcrawler September 03, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Thanks, Colin. For an interesting and often entertaining take on the history of the DSM, you might read Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test.
john davidson September 03, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Knight Crawler your welcome to join in..............I think Ive presented and defended my position here quite well. If you have anything to say please do Id be most open to what you may have to say.
Nightcrawler September 03, 2012 at 01:56 PM
No thanks, John. Your pro-smoking argument has lost. If you want to have some impact with it, suggest you brush up on your Russian and eastern European languages and take your ranting to places where there's still time to save the habit.
Brian L. September 03, 2012 at 02:23 PM
You have listed your statistics John but also decided that all the statistics arguing the other stance are lies. Saying only the opposition is "junk science" while taking your own for perfect statistics is a very flawed argument. You did make some points and back them up, but ignoring everything else isn't the right way to approach a query.
I respectfully disagree w/you Sue since I have read nothing that definitively says which is the chicken & which is the egg here. I have however, read many articles written by M.D.'s throughout the years that mention lack of sleep & issues like sleep apnea prominently in ADHD symptoms. I have included 2 but here, are many more. I have also seen books ab the effects of electric light/computer screen light on trends in disease-not just ADHD- many other diseases. That is real science and while I am not saying that the symptoms of ADHD are 1 dimensional & certainly could be related to more than one thing, I think it is somewhat disrespectful to characterize it like this based on many parents who want natural intervention & are not into diagnosing & immediate medication. There is also the group who have done the medication route & have read everything they can get their hands on & don't feel good about the 1 sided view. I have read many articles from Medical Docs/Neurologists like Fred Baughman M.D. & Peter Breggin M.D. as well, who can provide lots of info to the contrary of your laughing Neuro friend. So, I would suggest that the jury is still out on this one & ALL factors need to be considered. Since I saw many changes in my own home with a small change in sleep habits, pseudoscience or not, I have to believe that there is something to it. http://www.drgreene.com/article/sleep-deprivation-and-adhd http://thedubinclinic.com/2012/04/24/childhood-adhd-sleep-deprivation/
Sorry typo. My own sleep issues...... "I have included 2 but there are many more."


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