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Pediatrics. 2009 May;123(5):e857-64. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-2164.

Short sleep duration and behavioral symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in healthy 7- to 8-year-old children.

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  • 1Departments of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.



It has been hypothesized that sleep deprivation may manifest in children as behavioral symptoms rather than as tiredness, but only a few studies have investigated this hypothesis. The objective of our study was to evaluate whether short sleep is associated with behavioral symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in 7- to 8-year-old children.


We performed a cross-sectional study of children born in 1998 in Helsinki, Finland. The participants included 280 (146 girls, 134 boys) children with a mean age of 8.1 years (SD: 0.3; range: 7.4-8.8). Sleep quality was measured by using actigraphs. The Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children and the Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Rating Scale IV were administered to parents.


Children whose average sleep duration as measured by actigraphs was short (<10th percentile, ie, <7.7 hours) and had a higher hyperactivity/impulsivity score (9.7 vs 7.8 or 7.5) and a higher attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder total score (17.3 vs 14.5 or 13.1) but a similar inattention score (7.6 vs 6.7 or 5.6) compared with children sleeping 7.7 to 9.4 hours or >9.4 hours. In multivariate statistical models, short sleep duration remained a statistically significant predictor of hyperactivity/impulsivity, and sleeping difficulties were associated with hyperactivity/impulsivity, inattention, and the total score. There were no significant interactions between short sleep and sleeping difficulties.


Children's short sleep duration and sleeping difficulties increase the risk for behavioral symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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