A researcher at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University says that children and teens who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to be diagnosed with a sleep disorder, and more likely to be prescribed a sleep medication than children in the general population.

The findings were published as a part of a dissertation by Dr. Jocelyn R. Helwig, entitled “Disturbance in Children and Adolescents with ADHD: Unique Medication, ADHD Subtype, and Comorbid Status,” to be published next month.

Disturbed sleep can result in daytime sleepiness and behavioral difficulties, Helwig notes, affecting cognitive functions in children such as attention and memory as well as exacerbating symptoms of ADHD.

Helwig’s study was designed to determine the prevalence of sleep disorders, prescribed sleep medications and complaints of sleep problems as diagnosed by pediatric primary care providers in children and adolescents with ADHD.

Electronic medical records for 5,881 patients diagnosed with ADHD, ages 6 to 18 years old, were reviewed in the study, and a similar number of patients without ADHD matched by age, gender and primary care practice and seen for a well-child visit in 2007.

Information was collected on ICD-9 sleep diagnoses, medications potentially used to treat sleep disorders, demographic variables, medications commonly used to treat ADHD symptoms, ICD-9 ADHD subtype, and comorbidity.

A secondary analysis was conducted on 556 participants to examine parent and/or patient complaints of sleep problems.

“Results indicated that children and adolescents with ADHD were more likely to be diagnosed with a sleep disorder or prescribed a sleep medication compared to their pediatric counterparts with no ADHD diagnosis,” Helwig wrote.

“These risk factors and their subsequent effects on the severity of symptoms associated with ADHD must be considered when assessing and treating children and adolescents with ADHD.”