Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stimulant medicines may keep some kids awake at night, a new study confirms. These medicines used to limit and control symptoms of the condition may lead to sleep disorders such as difficulty falling asleep, poor quality sleep and shorter sleep periods.

In the study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL) discovered that children given stimulant drugs for ADHD sometimes develop sleep problems. Apparently, some kids taking these medicines have a difficult time falling asleep, staying asleep and have low-quality sleep.

To come up with their results, the researchers analyzed the findings of past clinical studies of ADHD and sleep problems. To address the issue on ADHD drugs and sleep disorders, the researchers examined nearly 10,000 studies and reviewed 167 articles.

They chose nine studies of sufficient accuracy for analysis. These studies contained clinical trials wherein children with ADHD were randomly assigned to either a group that received the drugs or to a control group that did not.

Results show that those who took medicines tend to have more sleep problems than those who did not take medications. This addresses issues raised even by past studies that say ADHD children have sleep problems even without medications.

"We would recommend that pediatricians frequently monitor children with ADHD who are prescribed stimulants for potential adverse effects on sleep," Katie Kidwell, doctoral student at the Department of Psychology - UNL and lead author of the study said in a press release.

In the United States, there are 5.9 million children aged 3 to 17 years old who are diagnosed with ADHD. Around 13.5 percent of these children are boys while 5.4 percent are girls. An estimated 3.5 million are prescribed stimulant medications.

The most common treatment option for ADHD is the use of stimulant drugs like amphetamines (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta). These have already listed sleep problems as one of its potential side effects.

"We're not saying don't use stimulant medications to treat ADHD. They are well tolerated in general and there is evidence for their effectiveness," Professor Tim Nelson, co-author of the study said.

He advised that doctors should weigh the pros and cons in choosing medicines for children and consider the side effects to children like disrupted sleep patterns.

Millions of U.S. children are under medications for various conditions like ADHD, depression, anxiety and behavioral problems. Medications for children and teenagers have become so common that 20 to 25 percent of students in most universities are under medication for various conditions.

Photo: Ian Barbour | Flickr 

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