Does ADHD make children tired?

by Rebecca Israel, MS & Sabrina Drumond. Reviewed by Charles Li, MD

June 11, 2020

  • Children with ADHD may be have a harder time going to sleep and staying asleep.

  • Children with ADHD have a less consistent sleep duration.

  • Parents reported that their children with ADHD exhibited daytime tiredness to a greater degree than children without ADHD.

ADHD and Tiredness

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 6 million Americans have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD for short. Symptoms typically associated with ADHD include inattention, irritability, fidgeting, and difficulty focusing.

Another symptom associated with ADHD is tiredness. In this article, we explore reports of tiredness in child ADHD cases.

Source: Data and Statistics About ADHD

Study design

Researchers sent surveys to 82 families. Parents and children were asked to score the child's sleeping habits for a typical week, based on a validated list of questions. Scores were then calculated based on their answers. The higher the score, the more disturbed the sleep.

ADHD and Sleep

Source: Parental and Self-report of Sleep in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Factors of tiredness

Bedtime resistance, sleep-onset delay, and sleep anxiety were categories used to measure difficulties with falling asleep. Parents of children with ADHD reported higher scores in bedtime resistance and sleep-onset delays than parents of children without ADHD. Children with ADHD also said that it was harder to fall asleep, often wanting to join a family member.

ADHD and Falling Asleep

Parents of children with ADHD reported shorter sleep duration and more sleep-waking compared to parent reports of children without ADHD. Children with ADHD reported being more disturbed by darkness and having nightmares.

There was a greater variation of sleep duration in children with ADHD, suggesting that children without ADHD may have a more consistent sleep schedule.

ADHD and Sleep Duration

Daytime tiredness

Parents were asked a variety of questions to measure daytime tiredness. For example, parents reported if their child is likely to fall asleep while watching television or in the car.

Parents reported that children with ADHD experienced daytime tiredness to a greater extent than children without ADHD. However, this data is missing the input of teachers and other caregivers who may also hold insights into the child's energy levels throughout the day.

ADHD and Daytime Tiredness Results

This study used a wide range of measures to quantify tiredness in children with ADHD. They found significant differences between bedtime, night time, and day time sleep habits between children with and without ADHD.

Children with ADHD in this study were all unmedicated, including any sleeping aids. The addition of an over-the-counter or prescription sleeping aid may narrow the difference seen between children with and without the disorder.

We do not see a deep dive into the child's daily activity load or experience of important life events. All this to say, there are a lot of factors that can influence sleep. There may be a link between ADHD and tiredness, but that does fully explain the relationship.

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