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ADHD Stimulant Treatments Keep Kids Awake

Stimulant drugs such as Concerta or Ritalin can help with ADHD treatment, but they also appear to interfere with children's sleep.

Stimulant medications like methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, etc.) appear to interfere with children’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.

The investigators noted that stimulants often result in wakefulness for adults, and wondered how they would affect sleep in youngsters with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). They were particularly concerned that ongoing sleep deprivation tends to undermine a person’s ability to focus, and thus the treatment might ultimately become counterproductive.

The researchers analyzed data from nine ADHD studies that also objectively measured sleep outcomes, particularly a measure called “sleep latency.” This means how long it takes a person to fall asleep.

Stimulant Drugs Interfere with Sleep:

They found that stimulant drugs make it harder for children to fall asleep, interfere with the total time asleep and impact sleep efficiency.

The authors encourage pediatricians to “carefully monitor sleep problems” and “adjust treatment to promote optimal sleep and minimize medication-induced sleep impairments.”

Pediatrics, December, 2015

It is somewhat reassuring that the amount of sleep disruption seemed to diminish the longer a child had taken the stimulant. It did not disappear in any of the studies analyzed, however. Extended release formulations were also less of a problem in keeping kids from falling asleep.

Parents who feel their youngster might be suffering as a consequence of sleep loss might want to learn more about treating ADHD naturally, especially considering that the evidence supporting the use of stimulant drugs like Ritalin is weak. We discussed this topic in an hour-long interview with Dr. Sandy Newmark, author of ADHD without Drugs: A Guide to the Natural Care of Children with ADHD.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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