ADHD meds cause trouble in children’s sleep

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Playing children
Children play with the gifts they got for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha from well-wishers of a local muslim community in Hanau, Germany September 24, 2015. Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) impair sleep in children, a study finds. The team, led by Katherine M. Kidwell, found that the more doses of medication a child took per day, the longer it took for that child to fall and stay asleep at night.

The team reviewed nine existing studies of children with ADHD. According to these studies, falling asleep lengthened as the number of doses increased each day.

The new study also determined that boys get poorer sleep quality than girls. Children taking the medications twice or thrice a day suffer worse consequences compared to those who only take them once per day. Taking amphetamines such as Adderall and methylphenidate such as Ritalin lead to poor sleep, which exacerbates ADHD symptoms.

“Some researchers note that stimulants may improve sleep, because they reduce bedtime-resistant behaviours,” Kidwell, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, said. “However, our study shows that stimulant medications impair sleep in children.”

Despite these effects, these medications should not be discontinued. Timothy Nelson, an associate professor of psychology the University of Nebraska-Lincoln requests the physician to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the treatment before deciding which drug to use, CBS news reports.

Kidwell also suggests parents encourage good bedtime habits with their children. Providing sound sleep structure and support will help their kids. She also asks pediatricians to monitor sleep disturbances of children so they can adjust the timing of doses or provide referrals for behavioral treatment of ADHD.

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