Researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Sleep Laboratory had reported that children who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may need more sleep than others instead of drugs to cure them of their problem.
ADHD is considered an issue of over alertness and nervousness, with affected children being fidgety and over stimulated. Yet, the use of stimulant medications (such as Ritalin) has been shown to be the most effective method for reducing ADHD symptoms in the majority of children.
This seeming paradox led researchers to question whether some children diagnosed with ADHD may in fact be sleepy, and their excessive motor activity merely a tool to stay alert. Researchers say this could explain why stimulants - which induce alertness by increasing activity in the central nervous system - are effective for treating children with ADHD.
The research team had studied 66 children with an average age of 12; 34 had already been diagnosed with ADHD, and the rest served as a control group. The researchers found the ADHD-diagnosed children had significantly higher levels of sleepiness during the day than those in the control group.
Half of the test subjects with ADHD (vs. 22% of the control group) were found to suffer from some degree of sleep-disordered breathing (such as sleep apnea, which is characterized by interruptions in breathing during sleep that last 10 seconds or more, at least five times per hour). And 15% (vs. none in the control group) had Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), a relatively uncommon disorder among children.
The researchers urge parents of hyperactive and attention-deficit children diagnosed with sleep disorders to have breathing irregularities and limb movements treated, to enforce good sleeping habits and avoid giving them caffeinated drinks at night. Only if these steps do not work, they say, should parents consider medication for ADHD.