Research shows that the ability of ADHD children to stay attentive and vigilant significantly worsened after losing less than 60 minutes of sleep each night for a week. Researchers indicate that even modest reductions in sleep time can have an effect on neurobehavioral functioning, possibly affecting the academic performance of ADHD children negatively.
After an average sleep loss of approximately 55 minutes for 6 nights, a neurobehavioral test showed that performance of ADHD children worsened from the subclinical to the clinical range of inattention on 4 of 6 measures, which included reaction time and omission errors. ADHD children generally made more omission errors than the healthy controls. Even though performance of the control group children also worsened after average sleep loss of 34 minutes for 6 nights, it didn’t get to a clinical degree of inattention on any of the 6 measures. Modest sleep restriction results in a detectable negative effect on the neurobehavioral functioning of ADHD children and healthy controls, resulting in a clinical degree of impairment in ADHD children.
The reduced sleep time in the research was moderate and similar to the reduced sleep that may perhaps happen in everyday life. Therefore, even small changes in computer time, dinner time, or staying awake to do homework can lead to poorer neurobehavioral functioning the next day and have an effect on sustained vigilance and attention, which are vital for optimal academic performance.
The Continuous Performance Test was used to measure neurobehavioral functioning at the conclusion of the baseline period as well as after the experimental period of loss of sleep. The Continuous Performance Test is a standardized, computer-administered test which usually takes approximately 15 minutes to do. Single letters are displayed on a computer monitor at 3 varied rates, and participants are required to push a button in response to all signals except the target signal. Recently, the Continuous Performance Test has increasingly been part of the basic neurobehavioral tool set used for ADHD evaluation.