Sleep in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) before and during treatment with methylphenidate: a controlled polysomnographic study

Sleep. 2008 Mar;31(3):375-81. doi: 10.1093/sleep/31.3.375.


Study objectives: Sleep problems are frequently associated with childhood ADHD, as indicated by numerous polysomnographic investigations showing increased nocturnal movements, reduced sleep efficiency, and decreased percentage of REM sleep (although findings are not consistent over all studies). Data on objective and subjective sleep parameters in adults with ADHD are sparse, and to date the impact of stimulants, the most widely used pharmacological treatment for ADHD, on sleep in adults with ADHD has not been examined. Thus the objectives of our study were to assess objective and subjective sleep parameters in adults with ADHD and the impact of stimulant medication on sleep.

Design: Two-group comparison and open-label therapy study.

Participants: We enrolled 34 nonmedicated patients with ADHD, of whom 24 were without current comorbid psychiatric disorders, and 34 sex- and gender-matched control subjects without current psychiatric disorders or psychotropic medication.

Interventions: Ten patients were treated with methylphenidate over > or =26 days with a mean daily dose of 36.7 +/- 11.2 mg.

Measurements: Polysomnographic recording over 2 consecutive nights as well as assessments of subjective sleep parameters were performed in all patients and controls before treatment and reassessed in those patients receiving methylphenidate.

Results: Compared to controls untreated patients showed increased nocturnal activity, reduced sleep efficiency, more nocturnal awakenings and reduced percentage of REM sleep. Treatment with methylphenidate resulted in increased sleep efficiency as well as a subjective feeling of improved restorative value of sleep.

Conclusions: Sleep problems in patients with ADHD continue from childhood to adulthood, with similar objective sleep characteristics in adults and children with ADHD. Medication with methylphenidate appears to have beneficial effects on sleep parameters in adults with ADHD.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography / drug effects*
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Sleep, REM / drug effects


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate