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Lack of sleep and using tablets before bed may cause ADHD

  • Scientists at a Paris conference say bad parenting could aggravate the disorder
  • Not getting to bed early as well as staring at screens late at night could cause it
  • About three quarters of people with ADHD have a delayed day-night rhythm
  • The disorder affects about one in 20 children and is more common in boys 

ADHD, the disorder that affects children’s ability to concentrate and results in disruptive behaviour, might simply be the result of them not getting enough sleep, leading scientists believe.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is exacerbated by bad habits such as not getting to sleep early and using mobiles or tablets before bed, they say.

The theory, being proposed at a major scientific conference this weekend, will fuel the belief that ADHD is caused – or at least aggravated – by poor parenting.

Scientists believe ADHD could be caused by staring at screens late into the night and not getting enough sleep

Professor Sandra Kooij, of VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam, said: ‘If you review the evidence, it looks more and more like ADHD and sleeplessness are two sides of the same physiological and mental coin.’

About three-quarters of people diagnosed with ADHD have a ‘circadian’ (day-night) rhythm which is delayed by about an hour and a half, she said. That meant they felt alert later into the evening than others – and got to sleep later – but then felt sleepier well into the morning.

The disorder, which affects about one in 20 children, could be worsened by bad parenting

The disorder, which affects about one in 20 children, could be worsened by bad parenting

Prof Kooij, who is speaking at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Paris today, said: ‘It raises the intriguing question: does ADHD cause sleeplessness, or does sleeplessness cause ADHD?’

ADHD is thought to affect about one in 20 children, mainly boys.

Many experts think the disorder has a strong genetic element. But some believe that the diagnosis is given out too readily – to children whose behaviour results largely from a lack of firm parenting, rather than from any intrinsic condition.