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Sleep Problems Common in Children with ADHD

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Children with ADHD who are not receiving medication often have sleep disturbances characterized by difficulty falling asleep and short duration of sleep and of REM sleep, Canadian investigators have found.

“Clinicians have reported sleep problems in an estimated 25 to 50 percent of children with ADHD, and treatment of sleep problems has been shown to improve behavior and decrease the need for stimulant medication in children with ADHD,” lead author Dr. Reut Gruber at McGill University told Reuters Health.

To compare sleep in children with and without ADHD, the researchers conducted standard overnight evaluations at each child’s home using a portable device. The 15 children with ADHD and 23 children without ADHD between seven and 11 years old were not taking medications and had not consumed caffeine for at least a week prior to the test.

According to results published in the journal Sleep, those with ADHD averaged significantly less total sleep time (449 minutes) compared with the control group (533 minutes). They also had reduced REM time and a smaller percentage of REM sleep out of total sleep time, 17 percent vs. 19 percent.

These findings suggest the children with ADHD have a delay in their circadian rhythm, or “internal time clock” that keeps them from being on a regular sleep cycle, Gruber’s team maintains.

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