What is the research about?

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to have sleep problems than children without ADHD.  Previous research has shown that sleep problems in children with ADHD can negatively affect daily living.  However, the risk factors and how persistent these sleep problems are over time in children with ADHD has not been investigated in depth.

What did the researchers do?

This study used data from 21 pediatric practices in Australia.  A total of 195 children with ADHD, between the ages of 5 and 13, were assessed for severity and types of sleep problems upon entry into the study. There were then assessed 6 and 12 months later.  The researchers gathered information from caregivers about their own mental health, and their child’s use of ADHD medication. The researchers assessed children’s ADHD symptom severity and whether or not any mental health or behaviour problems were present. The parents were asked to describe and rate the severity of their child’s sleep problems.  The authors excluded children who had been diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What did the researchers find?

Sleep problems in most children with ADHD usually come and go in no regular pattern.  However, in some children the sleep problems may persist. In either case, various types of sleep problems can occur.  Severe ADHD symptoms and taking ADHD medication were found to be risk factors for persistent sleep problems.  Poor caregiver mental health is a risk factor for irregular sleep problems.  The presence of other mental illnesses in the child is a risk factor for both persistent and irregular sleep problems.

Take home message

Sleep problems generally occur irregularly in children with ADHD, but they can also be persistent. The types of sleep problems can vary. Sleep problems in children with ADHD are influenced by ADHD symptom severity, ADHD medication use, caregiver mental health, and the presence of other mental health problems in the child. Early intervention and prevention strategies should take these risk factors into account. Tracking sleep problems over time can help inform treatment options, which should address a wide range of sleep problems.


The original Research Report  was written by K. Lycett and colleagues and was published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine. 2014.