Information Linking Sleep Deprivation with ADHD

A recent Today article suggests new evidence linking lack of sleep and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  There seems to be an issue with the biological clock of ADHD sufferers, and they generally do not get enough sleep.  It all has to do with melatonin and dopamine – crucial chemicals to our body’s natural functions.  

The study – led by Dr. Sandra Kooji from VU Medical Center in Amsterdam – provides evidence that suggests a closer look at melatonin – a necessary hormone in our bodies “that sparks our urge to sleep.” Research found that melatonin levels in people with ADHD are significantly different than those without ADHD.  People have a general circadian rhythym that encourages sleep when it’s dark, and wake when it’s light. When a person starts to feel sleepy, it’s because the melatonin levels in their body have increased.  

A later rise of melatonin levels in the evening were the indicating patterns in people with ADHD.  Because of this later release of melatonin, people with ADHD fall asleep later and generally get less sleep.  According to Dr. Kooji, lack of sleep in ADHD patients can then also lead to increased symptoms.    

The author of the Today article, Linda Carroll, goes on to note that “non-drug treatments – like light therapy, for example – might at least mitigate symptoms.” While it’s not suggested as a replacement for drugs, she does describe light therapy as a potential assistant to regulating the biological clock.

She goes on to describe the benefits of a regulated biological clock for other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder. This aligns with some other topics discussed on the PDSM blog, such as the importance of considering blue light and its effects on a person’s circadian rhythym.

Perhaps the most important part of Ms. Carroll’s article is the evidence that suggests that when we sleep is almost as important as the amount of hours. So, increasing the amount of hours slept may not be as crucial as the regulation of a body’s circadian rhythym.


Some suggestions for those trying to regulate their biological clock are very general recommendations for anyone looking to get a better night’s sleep – with or without ADHD.  Minimizing light near bedtime, getting exercise in the morning, eating less at dinner time, and ridding the bedroom of electronics are all suggestions for getting good sleep.  If these tips can help a person sleep better, maybe it can also help minimize some of the ADHD symptoms as well.

As always, if none of the tips we mention are helping, schedule a sleep study.  Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine is here to help you sleep well!


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