Children who take stimulant medication to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms may encounter sleep problems, a new study suggests.
In a study – published November 23 in the journal Paediatrics – the researchers looked at nine previous studies that analysed the relationship between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications and sleep. Almost 250 children and teenagers participated in the studies.
Katherine M. Kidwell, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska said that in every analysis that they did, sleep was worse for both teens and children.
The researchers found that children with ADHD who took stimulant medication slept for shorter amounts of time and took a lot longer to fall asleep, compared with children who did not take those medications.
About seven percent of all children and adolescents have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to researchers. ADHD symptoms are usually treated with stimulant medication. In the United States, about 3.5 million children are prescribed ADHD medication. The most common symptoms that may occur are hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention deficits, and disruptive behaviour.
Kidwell says that children with ADHD have problems sleeping as it is, and when they get stimulant medications their sleep tends to worsen.
The researchers noted that previous researches on using stimulant medications to treat children with ADHD have had conflicting results. Some studies found that the drugs may cause insomnia, while others suggested that the medications may in fact help children sleep better.
According to Kidwell, the new findings do not suggest that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder should stop taking their medications, because they are actually very beneficial. Instead, parents should talk about their child’s sleep with their paediatricians, and seek advice from a psychologist or doctor if their child has sleep problems. Evening routines like reading a bedtime story, can also encourage children’s sleep, Kidwell said.
Paediatricians should also ask parents about their children’ sleep – when the children have ADHD and are taking stimulant medications – to weigh the potential benefits and negative effects of the stimulants before prescribing them. In some cases, the benefits of taking the medications may be undermined by the sleep problems that the stimulants trigger.
That being said, more research is needed to better understand the link between children’s sleep and stimulant medications, the researchers stated.
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