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Study aims to better understand sleep in children with ADHD

A new study to better understand sleep in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been launched by Nottingham Trent University – with parents of children with ADHD invited to take part.

Young girl lying awake in bed
Children who have ADHD can often struggle to sleep

In the UK, more than 150,000 children between the age of six and 12 years old have ADHD, and around three in four of them also have sleep problems.

However, it is not always clear whether some core features of ADHD, such as fidgeting, are actually being caused due to the condition or lack of sleep.

Now, as part of research funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research to develop a digital sleep intervention for children with ADHD, researchers at NTU are developing an ADHD specific sleep questionnaire that will help parents to identify sleep problems in their children, independent of their ADHD.

Once developed the questionnaire will help parents to better report sleep problems in their children with ADHD and provide more accurate information for clinicians so that they can provide appropriate care for those families.

Researcher Professor David Daley, Head of Applied Psychological Practice at NTU’s School of Social Sciences, said: “The most common sleep problem in children with ADHD is chronic insomnia. This means problems falling and staying asleep. Bad sleep can have an impact on daytime behaviour and schoolwork, and generally make their quality of life worse. It can also affect their parents’ sleep.

“Despite this, professionals who see children with ADHD are not taught much about sleep and often struggle to identify sleep problems in children with ADHD.

“One of the many challenges is that ADHD behaviours and sleep difficulties often look the same. For example, a core feature of ADHD is fidgeting, so children with ADHD are often moving, squirming, and touching things. One feature of sleep difficulties is restless legs, where restlessness and lack of comfort in your legs prevents you from falling asleep.

“How can a tired parent of a child with ADHD, at the end of a challenging day, tell the different between fidgeting caused by ADHD problem, or restless legs due to a sleep problem, especially when both behaviours are happening under the duvet?”

To take part in the study, parents will tell the researchers about themselves and their child’s ADHD and sleep behaviour via two ten-minute surveys, eight weeks apart. To find out more or to take part visit the website or email

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    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens.

    The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

    NTU was awarded The Times and The Sunday Times Modern University of the Year 2023 and ranked second best university in the UK in the Uni Compare Top 100 rankings (2021/2022). It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards).

    NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with nearly 39,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

    Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities.

    NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data). It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge.

    NTU is ranked 2nd most sustainable university in the world in the 2022 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

    About NIHR

    The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

    • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
    • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
    • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
    • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
    • Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
    • Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

    NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

Published on 17 March 2023
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Social Sciences