adhd and sleep disorder

ADHD and Sleep Disorders- How are They Connected?

What is ADHD?

ADHD or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is defined as one of the most common chronic mental disorders that primarily affect children and often persists until adulthood. ADHD concerns parents and physicians because it interferes with the development and functioning of a child, hampering their normal life.

The behaviors that are associated with Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder include an extreme inability to concentrate, impulsive behavior and hyperactivity that the child demonstrates.

ADHD and Sleep DisordersAs a result of ADHD, children often experience isolation, antisocial behavior and inability to achieve even the smallest of tasks at home or at school. Not only that, but ADHD has also proven to be connected to sleep and gives rise to various sleep disorders, which is why it is considered as a major public health issue that needs to be addressed at familial and social levels.

Symptoms of ADHD in Children

As a neurodevelopmental disorder, the symptoms of ADHD can be divided into three main components that are:

  • Inattentiveness or the inability to keep the focus on something
  • Hyperactivity or extreme activeness that is usually disruptive
  • Impulsivity or doing things without giving a forethought

These are the main symptoms that help in identifying a child that suffers from Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and tells the concerned people he needs to be treated.

While the major symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity, to understand the disorder more thoroughly, the symptoms are further explained with the help of certain behaviors that the child displays.

ADHD and Sleep Disorders For instance, the symptoms that help in identifying inattentiveness in a child include:

  • Difficulty in giving and keeping attention during class tasks and or play
  • Does not respond or seem to listen when spoken to
  • Fails to finish the most meagre of tasks and chores
  • Find it difficult to organize tasks and activities at home or at school
  • Unable to look after personal belongings and often loses them
  • Is distracted easily
  • Forgets to finish daily activities that are given at school and dislikes putting mental effort into tasks that are assigned

Similarly, the symptoms that exhibit hyperactivity in children with ADHD can be summed up as follows:

  • Finds it difficult to sit in one place for a long time and moves around a lot
  • Talks excessively
  • Has the problem staying quiet during work or activities
  • Displays fidgeting of hands or feet as if unable to stay calm
  • Finds it extremely difficult to stay put in a place where expected to; runs around or squirms

As for impulsivity as a major symptom in children diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the minor behavioral clues are:

  • Do not wait for the other person to stop talking and blurt out the response
  • Finds it difficult to wait for their turn in a conversation or when asked a question
  • Interrupt or intrude into activities or conversations they are not a part of

Another important point to ponder here is the difference of symptoms between girls and boys. Where boys display the symptoms that are external and obvious, girls usually exhibit internal and less obvious symptoms such as being withdrawn, low self-esteem, anxiety, inattentiveness and verbal aggression etc. Research has also shown that the percentage of girls with ADHD is significantly lesser than that of boys, who are more affected by the disorder.

Sleep Disorders in a Nutshell

Sleep is one of the basic biological needs of the human body that is directly linked to the physical, mental, emotional and psychological well-being of an individual. Any kind of disruption in sleep leads to many other health problems and vice versa.

ADHD and Sleep DisordersSleep disorders are of many types and result as a consequence of other mental, clinical and physical disorders. Some sleep disorders that are common worldwide include sleep apnea, night terrors, sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome, transient or acute sleep disorder or chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia disorder.

ADHD and Sleep Disorders in Children – How Are They Connected

An extensive amount of research has been carried out in the field of Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and many have come to this conclusion that ADHD and sleep disorders are closely entwined together. They also assert that the relationship is reciprocal; ADHD gives rise to sleep disorders and in some cases, sleep disorders act as a catalyst among children to develop Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Some published studies on ADHD and its relationship with sleep disorders suggest that children or adolescents diagnosed with ADHD display symptoms of sleep disorders that include:

  • hypopnea/apnea (slow or shallow breathing during sleep)
  • peripheral limb movements (repetitive jerking of the legs during sleep)
  • agitated sleep during
  • increased sleep onset latency and shorter sleep time
  • bedtime resistance
  • finding it difficult to wake up in the morning
  • night awakenings or experiencing difficulty in going to sleep
  • daytime sleepiness

These are some of the sleep disorders that have been identified in children with ADHD, to name a few.

Also Read: What Are Sleep Disorders – Symptoms and Causes

According to a study at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (2017), approximately 75% of children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also experience sleep problems. Previously, ADHD and sleep disorders were considered as two separate issues, however, with the recent breakthrough on ADHD, it is being speculated that ADHD may, in fact, one of the outcomes of sleep disorders or disturbed sleep pattern.

ADHD and Sleep DisordersResearchers are of the view that a lack of sleep causes disturbance in the day and night rhythm, which consequently creates a disruption in many physical processes in the body. As a result of a consistent disruption in sleep pattern and physical processes of the body, conditions like ADHD develop and they further create a nuisance for the children who suffer from it and also the environment they are part of.

The assertion that ADHD and sleep disorders are connected with each other can also be strengthened by researches that show how a lot of sleep disorders are associated with ADHD. What usually happens with ADHD patients is that they also experience one or another sleep disorder as mentioned above. However, mental health experts and sleep disorder experts also believe that it would not be wise to claim that all ADHD cases are a result of some sleep disorder or all sleep disorders stem from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The middle ground which researchers insist to take it the obvious connection between ADHD and sleep disorders, how physical processes affect mental processes and how mental health issues give birth to physical disruption in the body.


To conclude the discussion, it is safe to assume on the basis of extensive research on ADHD and sleep disorders that both are indeed connected with each other. The mental outcomes of ADHD along with all the disturbances this disorder causes in the life of a child and its family, they also develop sleep disorders that remain persistent as long as ADHD.

Similarly, children or adults with ADHD are more prone to developing sleep disorders and hence, it would not be an overestimation to say that ADHD and sleep disorders are two sides of the same coin.


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