Shortened Sleep Duration Causes Sleepiness, Inattention, and Oppositionality in Adolescents with ADHD

Shortened Sleep Duration Causes Sleepiness, Inattention, and Oppositionality in Adolescents with ADHD: Findings from a Crossover Sleep Restriction/Extension Study

Becker SP, Epstein JN, Tamm L, Tilford AA, Tischner CM, Isaacson PA, Simon JO, Beebe DW.


J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2018 Nov 1. pii: S0890-8567(18)31914-2.
doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2018.09.439.


Guest Commentary by Dr. Margaret Weiss: Assessment of sleep patterns and remediation of sleep difficulties is an important clinical target in adolescents with ADHD.



OBJECTIVE: Although poor sleep is often reported in adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), prior studies have been correlational. This study investigated whether sleep duration is causally linked to sleepiness, inattention, and behavioral functioning in adolescents with ADHD.

METHOD: Seventy-two adolescents (ages 14-17 years) entered a three-week sleep protocol using an experimental crossover design. The protocol included a phase stabilization week, followed in randomized counterbalanced order by 1 week of sleep restriction (6.5 hours) and 1 week of sleep extension (9.5 hours). Sleep was monitored with actigraphy and daily sleep diaries, with laboratory visits at the end of each week. Analyses included 48 adolescents who had complete actigraphy data and successfully completed the sleep protocol (defined a priori as obtaining ≥1 hour actigraphy-measured sleep duration during extension compared to restriction). Parent and adolescent ratings of daytime sleepiness, ADHD symptoms, sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT), and oppositional behaviors were the primary measures. The A-X Continuous Performance Test (CPT) was a secondary measure.

RESULTS: Compared to the extended sleep week, parents reported more inattentive and oppositional symptoms during the restricted sleep week. Both parents and adolescents reported more SCT symptoms and greater daytime sleepiness during restriction compared to extension. Adolescents reported less hyperactivity-impulsivity during sleep restriction than extension. No effects were found for parent-reported hyperactivity-impulsivity, adolescent-reported ADHD inattention, or CPT performance.

CONCLUSION: This study provides the first evidence that sleep duration is a causal contributor to daytime behaviors in adolescents with ADHD. Sleep may be an important target for intervention in adolescents with ADHD.


* Abstracts are selected for their clinical relevance by Dr. Margaret Weiss, Director of Clinical Research, Child Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard University. Her commentary reflects her own opinion.  It is not approved or necessarily representative of the CADDRA board


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