Symptoms of sleep disorders, inattention, and hyperactivity in children

Sleep. 1997 Dec;20(12):1185-92. doi: 10.1093/sleep/20.12.1185.


Children with sleep disorders are often inattentive or hyperactive, and some carry a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) until their sleep disorder is detected. However, the potential behavioral impact of undiagnosed sleep disorders is not known. We sought to determine whether children with higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity more frequently have symptoms of sleep-related breathing disorders (SRBDs) or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). We surveyed parents of 2-18-year-old patients at a child psychiatry clinic (n = 70) and a general pediatrics clinic (n = 73) to assess the children's behavior, snoring, complaints of restless legs at night, and daytime sleepiness. A validated pediatric sleep questionnaire provided the explanatory variables, and a scale for inattention and hyperactivity, derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), provided the dependent variable. Habitual snoring was more frequent (33%) among children who carried a diagnosis of ADHD than among the other children at the psychiatry or general pediatric clinics (11 and 9%, respectively, chi-square test, p = 0.01). Snoring scores, derived from six snoring- and SRBD-related question items, were associated with higher levels of inattention and hyperactivity. The complaint of restless legs and a composite score for daytime sleepiness showed some evidence, though less consistent, of an association with inattention and hyperactivity. The association of snoring with inattention and hyperactivity suggests that SRBDs and perhaps other sleep disorders could be a cause of inattention and hyperactivity in some children. If a causal effect is present, our data suggest that 81% of habitually snoring children who have ADHD--25% of all children with ADHD--could have their ADHD eliminated if their habitual snoring and any associated SRBD were effectively treated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / diagnosis
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / etiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Snoring / diagnosis
  • Snoring / etiology