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Blog Feature

By: Regina Patrick, RPSGT, RST on September 26th, 2019

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome May Be Linked

Sleep Disorders

The prevalence of certain sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia and restless legs syndrome are increased among children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Some scientists now believe that ADHD and delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) are linked and believe that an estimated 73-78% of children and adults with ADHD also have DSPS. In recent years, scientists have begun investigating whether treating DSPS in people with comorbid ADHD and DSPS improves ADHD symptoms.

People with ADHD have difficulty focusing on tasks (i.e., inattention) and may act impulsively. They may behaviorally be disorganized, restless and virtually always in motion (i.e., hyperactive). In people with DSPS, the sleep/wake phases occur later than normal. Thus, they naturally want to go to sleep in the early morning hours and awaken late in the morning. 
How ADHD and DSPS are pathophysiologically linked is unclear. Alterations in brain regions involved in sleep, wakefulness, learning, cognition and motor activity could be a possible link, as indicated in some recent research. Alterations in the pineal gland may be involved in the coexistence of ADHD and DSPS. The pineal gland produces melatonin and is involved in  circadian rhythms and in circadian preference (i.e., whether a person is a “morning” person or an “evening” person). This gland also has a role in movement. Recent research indicates that  the pineal gland volume is smaller in people with ADHD than in people without ADHD, and that people with ADHD tend to have an “evening” circadian preference, which may be related to the reduced volume.
Such findings are interesting. However, more studies are needed to determine whether ADHD and DSPS have a shared pathophysiology.

You can read the whole article in the Q3 issue of A2Zzz

View the issue

Read Case of the Month #51: Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.