Children with AD/HD have been found to have problems with going to sleep, staying asleep, and waking up in the morning. In addition, they may experience excessive daytime sleepiness.
AD/HD has been generally demonstrated to reduce the time in rapid eye movement (REM) or "dream" sleep among children, while also increasing the frequency of periodic leg movements.
There are several theories about the causes of sleep disturbances in people with AD/HD. One simple explanation is that the sleep disturbances are direct manifestations of the problems with arousal associated with the AD/HD itself.
In addition to insomnia, many adults and children with AD/HD report being restless when they sleep, but for some it may be more serious than just tossing and turning.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and sleep-disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are among the more commonly observed sleep disorders in people with AD/HD. It seems that people with restless legs syndrome (RSL) are more likely to have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) than people without RLS. In a recent review of clinical studies reporting cases of RLS and AD/HD, Cortese and colleagues (2005) found that 44% of the subjects with AD/HD in these studies were found to have RLS, and as many as 26% of subjects with RLS also had AD/HD.
In another preliminary study (Zak, et al, 2009) found 20% of adults with AD/HD had RSL compared to 7.2% of the controls.
For years, the association of sleep disorders and AD/HD has been overlooked because of the focus on insomnia as a side effect of stimulants medication used to treat AD/HD, rather than a coexisting condition. Stimulants may be associated with a delay of sleep onset and insomnia, in some people, but in a significant number of patients with AD/HD, stimulants may actually improve sleep initiation.
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