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Association Between Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Sleep Impairment in Adulthood: Evidence From a Large Controlled Study

J Clin Psychiatry 2009;70(11):1523-1529
10.4088/JCP.08m04514

Objective: To examine whether sleep impairment is associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults.

Method: In a study conducted from 1998 to 2003, we identified sleep characteristics in a community sample of 182 cases of DSM-IV ADHD or ADHD not otherwise specified and 117 non-ADHD controls aged 18 to 55 years. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder status, current and lifetime psychiatric comorbidity, and pharmacologic treatment of ADHD were identified with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV and with modules from the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Epidemiologic Version. Sleep problems were characterized by self-report. We separately accounted for the contribution of age at ADHD onset, ADHD pharmacotherapy, lifetime bipolar disorder, and the following lifetime and current comorbidities: depression, generalized anxiety, substance abuse, and multiple anxiety disorders.

Results: Adults with ADHD went to bed later than control subjects and had a wider range of bedtimes (mean ± SD = 18 ± 92 min vs 54 ± 69 min before midnight; P < .001), were more likely to take over an hour to fall asleep (OR = 5.22, P = .001), and were more likely (P < .003) to experience difficulty going to bed, going to sleep, sleeping restfully, or waking in the morning. Adults with ADHD experienced daytime sleepiness more often (OR = 2.23, P = .003) and reported more sleep problems (mean ± SD = 6.7 ± 2.5 vs 4.3 ± 2.2; P < .001) than controls. All sleep impairments were significantly associated with ADHD independent of contributions to sleep disruption from ADHD pharmacotherapy, comorbidities likely to contribute to sleep disturbance, and age at ADHD onset.

Conclusion: Sleep disturbances that are not attributable to comorbid mental health conditions or ADHD pharmacotherapy are associated with ADHD in adulthood. Clinicians and researchers should consider the potential contribution of sleep disruption to the clinical presentation of adults with ADHD.


Submitted: June 13, 2008; accepted November 4, 2008.

Online ahead of print: July 28, 2009.

Corresponding author: Craig B. H. Surman, MD, Clinical and Research Program in Pediatric Psychopharmacology and Adult ADHD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Suite 2000, 185 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02138 (csurman@partners.org).