Every Minute Counts

Minor sleep loss affects attention span of children with ADHD

(RxWiki News) Losing merely less than one hour of sleep each night may have a significant impact on the attention of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

This finding suggests that even small amounts of sleep loss could negatively affect the academic success of children with ADHD.

In a study involving 43 children, Reut Gruber, PhD, Director of the Attention, Behavior and Sleep Laboratory at Douglas Mental Health University Institute, and colleagues studied the effects of one hour of sleep loss on children with ADHD. Before and after the six-day period of sleep loss, the study's participants were asked to complete the Continuous Performance Test, a test that has recently become common in evaluations of ADHD.

The results showed that moderate sleep restriction (such as might occur in daily life) negatively impacted the ability of both healthy children and children with ADHD to remain vigilant and attentive. Furthermore, children with ADHD were affected to the point of clinical impairment.

The negative effects of even minor sleep deprivation need to be addressed by the educational system, says Gruber, who is also an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at McGill University.

In agreement with Gruber, Joe Madia, MD, said, "It is important that we address the problem of sleep deprivation among students, especially for students with ADHD. Doing so will likely lead to improved academic performance."

ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders in the United States. The disorder - which is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity - affects approximately three to seven percent of school-aged children. However, some studies have shown higher rates among community samples. To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must show symptoms for at least six months.

The study by Gruber and colleagues is published in the journal SLEEP.

Review Date: 
March 2, 2011