Sleep, Academics, and ADHD: Not as Simple as it Sounds

Every parent knows the value of a good night’s sleep for their child. For many parents, this is easier said than done. Studies consistently show that as children transition to adolescence, the number of hours slept each night drops. Approximately 60% of middle school students sleep less than the recommended 9 hours per night on school nights and this figure rises to almost 90% among ninth grade students and to 95% by the end of high school. Given the changes in the body and brain during adolescence, as well as increased academic and social demands, shortened sleep duration has become an area of concern for many parents and schools. This concern is justified by studies showing shorter sleep duration to be associated with lower grades and more social difficulties among teens. Studies show that staying up just one more hour can have a negative impact during school the next day. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, with no electronics an hour before bedtime, is important for fostering sleep in teens.

While getting enough sleep may be challenging for many teens, the negative impact of sleep may be especially pronounced in teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  Dozens of studies show that youth with ADHD have more sleep problems than other children. Other research suggests that poorer sleep functioning is linked to diminished academic performance and increased depressive symptoms and oppositional behaviors in teens with ADHD. These studies suggest that the consequences of inadequate sleep may be magnified in teens who have attention problems or have been diagnosed with ADHD. If you have a teen with ADHD, paying attention to your teen’s sleep is important.

More research is needed to better understand how sleep impacts teens with ADHD. Connections Tutoring values current research that can benefit families and ultimately inform important public policy decisions such as high school start times. We are happy to let you know that a team of researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is specifically examining how shortened and recommended sleep duration levels impact academic, social, and emotional functioning in teens with ADHD. Participation in this study occurs almost entirely during the summer months to ensure that the sleep duration levels don’t have an impact of students’ grades or performance at school. This study is currently recruiting participants, so if you or someone you know are interested, here are the details:

  • This study is for teens ages 14-17 years old
  • Teens may already have been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD or be suspected of having ADHD/ADD.
  • If your child meets initial screening criteria on the phone, the study staff will schedule a visit at the Cincinnati Children’s Center for ADHD this spring to determine if your child fully qualifies to participate in the study this summer. Primary participation in this study will occur during the summer months.
  • As part of this visit, your child would receive a mental health diagnostic evaluation and abbreviated intelligence and academic achievement testing at no charge.
  • You will be compensated up to $220 for time and travel if you and your child participate in this study.
  • For more information, please e-mail or call (513) 803-1345 if interested in participating.

Written by Dr. Stephen Becker, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center