Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Wholly unrelated, but also interesting: Israeli researchers claim that many kids diagnosed with ADHD are, in fact, just tired. The team says that when kids are sleepy, they tend to be cranky, impulsive, and may be overactive in attempting to compensate and keep themselves awake, and that giving them stimulants (like Ritalin) is effective because it reduces tiredness.
Now, I would love to believe that ADHD could be cured by letting kids get more/better sleep - I have a long series of thoughts about how kids today are pressured by over-achieving parents to do everything - but I seriously doubt this is the case.
First of all. Stimulants' work against ADHD is fairly well explained by the reaction curve,* and while the tiredness hypothesis makes intuitive sense, intuitive sense is not always a good bet in biology. Secondly, I'd have to see the data to be sure, but there is little doubt that improving sleep quality will improve school performance, so that could easily be an artifact.
* Imagine your state of arousal like a curve or half-circle. If non-ADHD people are naturally at about 30 degrees on that curve, taking stimulants pushes them 'forward' 60 degrees to 90 - the top, so they get hyper. Similarly, if ADHD people are naturally at 80 degrees, taking stimulants pushes them 60 degree 'forward' to 140 - which is lower on the arousal scale than where they started.