The Importance of Sleep

More evidence supporting the role sleep can play in ADHD has been found. Healthy, adult volunteers were split into two groups. One was kept awake for 35 hours whilst the rest got a good night’s sleep. The brains were then scanned whilst the volunteer looked at photos ranging from a wicker basket to gruesome images of burn victims. In the sleep deprived subjects, the amygdala, a midbrain structure that decodes emotion, was significantly more active. Instead of its normal activity of linking to the medial prefrontal cortex (one of the higher functioning parts of the brain), in the sleep-deprived brain, the amygdala seemed to be “rewired,” coupling instead with a brain stem area called the locus coeruleus, which secretes norepinephrine, a precursor of the hormone adrenaline that triggers fight-or-flight type reactions.

Whilst this study did not look specifically at ADHD it did demonstrates that sleep can potentially cause the sort of extreme behavior seen in ADHD. Hyperactivity as the brain pumps adrenalin into the body, strong emotional reactions to stimuli and poor self-control as the higher brain regions are circumvented. If missing a single night’s sleep can cause this, I wonder what happens to children’s developing brain if they are regularly deprived of sleep.

Soruce: Scientific America: Can a Lack of Sleep Cause Psychiatric Disorders?


  1. Christiaan (NL)

    That’s really a tough question because its known that people with ADHD also even when they are not prediscribed on drugs having severe sleeping problems. A lot of them sleep even better with those amphetamine-like drugs. It sounds weird, but maybe it’s not. During sleep you need a certain amount of brainactivity in certain parts of your brain in order to switch off other parts and
    get to sleep finally. If this complex system is disturbed it won’t work properlly. Although it seems here that ADHD-like behaviour could be caused by lack of sleep, it seems to me more likely that it’s worsening the ADHD-symptoms in ADHD,rather to be the only cause of this behaviour. Melatomine, the hormone that regulates bio-rhythm for instance does help people with ADHD to get a normal sleep-pattern but it doesn’t cure the ADHD-symptoms. So its more complicated than that, get enough sleep is not thé answer to solve this problem.

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