People with high ADHD symptoms who do not meet the criteria for diagnosis are less able to perform actions including alert management or emotional control after a sleepless night than individuals with low ADHD symptoms, who recommend the results of a new study. The study from Karolinska Institutet published in Biological Psychofiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging reports.
While it can cause a number of cognitive deficits, there is a significant individual difference in sensitivity to the effects of insomnia. The reason for this variability has been an unresolved research question for a long time. In the current study, KI researchers examined how sleep deprivation affects our functional activities, that is to say the main mental processes that govern our thoughts and actions. They also wanted to find out if people with ADHD are more sensitive to insomnia, with more severe functional deficits as a result.
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is characterized by inattention, immobility and depression; however, the symptoms vary from person to person and often include emotional instability. “You could say that some people with some subclinical symptoms are similar to ADHD but will only be diagnosed once the symptoms are so obvious that they interfere with our daily lives,” said Predrag Petrovic, consultant and associate professor of psychiatry at the Department of Clinical Neonatology at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, who led the study with Tina Sundelin and John Axelsson, both research at the Karolinska Institutet and the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University.
The study included 180 healthy participants between the ages of 17 and 45 without a diagnosis of ADHD. Trends in insensitivity and emotional instability were assessed on the scale of Brown Attention Deficit Disorder (B-ADD). Participants were randomly assigned to two groups, one who were allowed to sleep normally and one who could sleep for one night. They were then asked to perform a test that measures the next day’s activity and emotional control (Stroop test with neutral and emotional faces).
The researchers found that the group with sleep deprivation showed worse performance in the experimental tasks (including greater variability of mental response). In addition, people with high ADHD symptoms were more vulnerable to sleep deprivation and showed more deficiency than those with low ADHD symptoms. The effects were also associated with the most pronounced type of ADHD-like symptom, as participants who experienced daily problems with emotional instability had greater difficulty with the mental activity involved. the introduction of emotional regulation, and those who had the daily insensitive function had greater difficulties with the non-emotional mental function.
“One of the reasons these results are important is that we know that young people are getting much less sleep than they did just ten years ago,” explained Dr Petrovic. “If young people with high symptoms of ADHD consistently get too little sleep they will worsen cognition and, in addition, their symptoms may end up at a clinically significant level.”