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?