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Are Students Falling Asleep in Class?

By Julie Rager, CEI Intern

Have you ever walked into a classroom at your school, to find a student fast asleep? Sleep deprivation is a concern for many reasons. And the causes of sleep deprivation can be many (trauma, staying up to play video games, health concerns).  However, for students with ADHD, it is sometimes exacerbated by the very medications that are used to treat ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) although typically diagnosed in childhood, often continues to adolescence and even adulthood. Symptoms of ADHD can include over-activity, difficulty controlling behavior, and difficulty paying attention and staying focused ADHD presents a problem for educators, especially when gone undiagnosed and untreated. Children are unable to focus, often disrupt classrooms, and prevent themselves and their fellow students from learning. According to the

NIH, the most common type of ADHD treatment are a class of medications called stimulants, which are supposed to work by having a calming effect on a child, enabling the child to focus and reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity. However, many of these medications have side effects, most commonly decreased appetite and sleep problems. One study found that children with ADHD were more sleepy during the day than those without ADHD, and other research suggests that restless leg syndrome (RLS) is also common in kids with ADHD). It is known that sleep deprivation has considerable negative health effects for both children and adults including obesity in children and adults, diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension, as well as anxiety and depression symptoms (‘Sleep Disorders,’ 2006).

Other approaches to ADHD which do not result in sleep disturbance may be worth investigating. Behavioral interventions have had some success in improving symptoms of ADHD and helping children learn. Programs that emphasize parent involvement, teacher involvement, exercise, and even extra sleep can help alleviate ADHD symptoms and help get kids back on the right track (Clay, 2013). Further, CEI is working closely with Dr. Wexler of Yale University and his neuroscience program ( is providing remarkable success in reducing ADHD symptoms, and increasing attention.  Students with the C8 Science program also are demonstrating significant increases in academic learning. By focusing on neuroscientific or behavioral/environmental interventions, parents and educators can be on the same page and perhaps even give students a foundation to override brain pathways that are associated with attention deficits.


Clay, Rebecca (2013, February). Easing ADHD Without Meds. Retrieved from

Klein, Sarah. (2013, March). 8 Scary Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation. Retrieved from

Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem (2006). Retrieved from

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