One of the original criteria for the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was a pattern of sleep problems. Although this is no longer included in the clinical criteria to reach a diagnosis of ADHD, many children with ADHD experience sleep disturbances. According to parental reports, sleep problems occur in over half of children with ADHD. Understanding the sleep microstructure, or sequence of waking moments and sleep arousals that occur, in children with ADHD is important for addressing the symptoms. When children do not get enough sleep, their attention during waking hours can be significantly compromised, stretching their already limited attention resources further.
Although there has been evidence of a link between sleep disturbances and ADHD in some existing research, there have been few studies that have focused specifically on sleep microstructure in children with ADHD. Therefore, I. Prihodova of the Department of Neurology and Center of Clinical Neuroscience at Charles University in the Czech Republic conducted a study of 14 children with a diagnosis of ADHD and no history of sleep problems. Prihodova assessed the sleep stability in the participants and compared that to the sleep stability of 14 control participants with no history of ADHD or sleep problems. The participants were evaluated via video monitor for two nights and measured for sleep arousal and disturbances using a system called CAP.
Prihodova found that the children with ADHD had no significant differences in CAP scoring than those without ADHD. These findings are contrary to some existing research that demonstrates a link between the sleep patterns of ADHD children and non-ADHD children. However, Prihodova believes that the use of microstructure examination, which was not used in existing research, could account for the variances in outcomes. Additionally, Prihodova believes that although the control group and ADHD children were well-matched, the sample size of only 14 subjects with ADHD could be too small to gauge accurate results. Prihodova added, “This discrepancy between our findings and the only present-day study of that particular aspect [Miano et al. (2006)] calls for more research using larger cohorts to verify the results.”
Príhodová, I., Paclt, I., Kemlink, D., Nevsímalová, S. (2012). Sleep microstructure is not altered in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Psychological Research, 61.1, 125-133.
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