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Abnormal Sleep May Add to Emotional Problems in ADHD Kids

New research suggests that abnormal sleep may aggravate emotional problems experienced in the daytime by children with ADHD.

German researcher Alexander Prehn-Kristensen, Ph.D., and colleagues from University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein posit that while sleep consolidates emotional memories in healthy children, it does not do so in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests these deficits in sleep-related emotional processing may exacerbate emotional problems experienced in the daytime by children with ADHD.

For the study, healthy adults, healthy children and children with ADHD were shown pictures that had emotional relevance, such as a scary animal, or neutral pictures showing an umbrella or lamp.

Participants were shown pictures in the evening, their brain activity was monitored as they slept, and recollections were tested the following morning.

The researchers found that during sleep, regions of the brain thought to support consolidation of emotional memories were most active in healthy children, less so in healthy adults and least active in children with ADHD.

The study states, “While several studies reported a benefit from sleep with respect to emotional memory in healthy individuals, our results showed for the first time that healthy children outperform healthy adults.”

However, the authors add that this may be, in part, attributable to the child-oriented pictures used as stimuli.

Their results support the idea that frontal brain activity is critically to the consolidation of emotional memory in sleep, and this brain region is also implicated in the emotional symptoms seen in children suffering from ADHD.

Researchers said additional studies are needed to confirm whether this function of sleep in forming emotional memories develops with time in adults with ADHD, or whether the dysfunction persists in ADHD sufferers of all ages.

Source: Public Library of Science

Abnormal Sleep May Add to Emotional Problems in ADHD Kids

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Abnormal Sleep May Add to Emotional Problems in ADHD Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/05/31/abnormal-sleep-may-add-to-emotional-problems-in-adhd-kids/55443.html


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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