The latest study appears in the March 1 issue of the journal Sleep. It finds that children with ADHD get about 33 minutes less sleep per night than other children. They also get less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
The authors suggest that there may be an underlying sleep problem that is specific to ADHD. So does this mean that sleep problems are the cause of ADHD? Not quite.
“I do not believe that sleep per se is the cause of ADHD, but it may make the symptoms worse in children with sleep problems," said lead author Reut Gruber, PhD.
So sleep problems may cause ADHD-like symptoms. Sleep problems also can make ADHD symptoms more severe. But not every child with ADHD has a sleep disorder.
A common link between sleep problems and ADHD may be sleep deprivation. Children often respond to sleep loss in a different way than adults.
Sleep-deprived adults tend to be sleepy and sluggish during the day. But sleep-deprived children may be hyperactive.
This is one key symptom of ADHD. Children with ADHD also may be inattentive or impulsive.
A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reviewed the evidence linking sleep problems to ADHD. Here is what it found.
Restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movements often occur in people with ADHD. Snoring and sleep apnea may contribute to some mild ADHD-like symptoms.
Disorders of “partial arousal” appear to be common in children with ADHD. These include sleepwalking, confusional arousals and sleep terrors.
ADHD seems to be more common in children with rhythmic movement disorder. But this needs to be confirmed by larger studies.
ADHD often involves symptoms of “sleep-onset” insomnia. Children with ADHD may have a hard time falling asleep.
So parents, make sure that your child gets enough sleep for his or her age. Observe how your child sleeps. Discuss any problems with your child’s doctor.
Your child should be screened for a sleep disorder if he or she has ADHD symptoms. Treating an underlying sleep disorder may help your child function better during the day.
Contact an AASM-accredited sleep center for help.