Sleep Deprivation Worsens ADHD

For as many as one out of every four people with ADHD, there might just be a cure. That’s right, full elimination of symptoms. While this may seem unheard of, an article in the renowned journal, Pediatrics, says this might just be possible. No ADHD medication, no natural remedies, all it takes is to address the issue of childhood snoring.

Better Sleep to Treat ADHD?

While the exact cause of the symptoms exhibited by people with ADHD is unknown, the medical community recognizes that sleep likely plays a role. Dr. Ronald Chervin, a professor at the University of Michigan is a leading expert in the role sleep has on ADHD. He is quick to point out that much of the brain’s development is carried out during sleep, and any chronic disruption of that sleep may actually inhibit early brain development. In addition, disorders such as snoring might prevent sufficient oxygen from getting to a sleeping brain. Some estimate that up to 16 percent of kids snore. Kids who do so are substantially more likely to have ADHD.

The Research

Dr. Chervin surveyed the parents of 866 kids about their children’s sleep and behavior. The sleep-behavior relationship was so strong that he ultimately concluded that if children’s sleep-disordered breathing could be improved (e.g. through tonsil or adenoid removal, also known as adenotonsillectomy), one quarter of ADHD cases would be eliminated.

50% of Children with ADHD were Cured

To test this theory, Chervin then studied 79 kids (5 to 13 years old) who were about to have an adenotonsillectomy. Prior to the surgery, 22 of the 79 were categorized as having ADHD, based on standard measures for such a diagnosis. One year later, Chervin’s team tracked down the kids for a follow-up. Of the 22 identified as having ADHD, 11 kids no longer qualified as having the disorder. That is a remarkable level of success.

While this may not work for everyone, it certainly is an option to look into. Even if the person is not a candidate for the surgery, it is still important to shed light on the relationship between sleep and symptoms, and how a proper sleep is as important as therapy you use, the food you eat, and the medication you take.



Chervin, R., Archbold, K., Dillon, J., Panahi, P., Pituch, K., Dahl, R., & Guilleminault, C. (2002). Inattention, hyperactivity, and symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing . Pediatrics, 109(3), 449-456.


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