About This Project
Increasing the amount of sleep children get, by advancing bedtime, improves cognitive functioning of typically developing children. In my dissertation research, I hope to extend these findings to children with ADHD, a neurobehavioral disorder linked to social and academic problems throughout development.
If sleep extension is associated with cognitive benefits in this population, sleep manipulations may be considered as a non-pharmacological means of ADHD symptoms during early childhood.
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What is the context of this research?
Research conducted in the early stages of my dissertation research shows that, relative to typically developing children, children with ADHD have differences in a physiological component of sleep linked to cortical plasticity, brain maturation, and cognition. Moreover, this component of sleep is positively associated with inhibitory control in typically developing children and not children with ADHD.
Taken together, these findings suggest that differences in sleep physiology may underlie the inhibitory processes in typically and atypically developing populations. As such, the goal of my dissertation research is to determine if altering sleep physiology, by extending sleep, can improve inhibitory deficits underlying ADHD symptomology.
What is the significance of this project?
Characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorders among young children. Children with ADHD suffer social and academic impediments that are linked to heightened risk for maladaptive outcomes throughout development.
Current treatment plans rely heavily upon stimulants and other forms of medication which are associated with adverse side effects such as loss of appetite, headaches/stomachaches, and insomnia.
As such, a better understanding of ADHD symptomology is needed to develop opportunities for non-pharmacological intervention. The proposed study aims to address such concerns by assessing whether a sleep-based intervention improves the inhibitory deficits underlying core symptoms of ADHD.
What are the goals of the project?
The goal of this project is to determine if altering sleep physiology, by extending sleep, can improve inhibitory control in children ADHD.
Children will be asked to go to sleep 1.5 hours earlier than their normal bedtime for 5 days. To determine whether sleep extension alters cognition in children with ADHD, we will compare measures of sleep physiology and inhibitory control following the 5 day sleep extension period to the same measures obtained following 5 days of 'baseline' sleep (normal bedtime).
We have tested this protocol in typically developing children (without ADHD) and find that children are able to increased sleep duration by ~40 minutes!
It is often difficult for families to carve out time for child sleep studies, particularly studies which require the family to commit to overnight lab visits. As such, we are requesting funds to pay families for the time they spend with us. The funds raised by experiment.com donors will allow us to compensate each family $100 for their time and efforts in this study.
Meet the Team
I am currently a 3rd year doctoral student in the Neuroscience & Behavior Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Under the direction of Drs. Rebecca Spencer and Jennifer McDermott, I study the effects of sleep on cognition during early development. I am particularly interested in characterizing sleep deficits among children with developmental disorders such as ADHD and autism. I believe such research will inform opportunities for early diagnosis, intervention, and treatment of sleep-related cognitive impairments.
In order to assess the effects of sleep extension on cognition of young children with ADHD, children will participate in a 2 weeklong testing periods: baseline and sleep extension. During the baseline testing period, children will go to sleep at their normal bedtime (e.g., 8:30pm) and wake at their normal rise time, consistently. At the end of this testing period, children will participate in an overnight lab visit during which (1) inhibitory control will be assessed before and after overnight sleep and (2) overnight sleep physiology will be measured with polysomongraphy - a collection of sleep recording electrodes placed on the scalp, next to the eyes, and on the chin.
During the sleep extension testing period, children will go to sleep 1.5 hours earlier (e.g., 7:00pm) than their normal bedtime (e.g., 8:30pm) while still maintaining a consistent rise time. Caregivers will be provided a list of tips and strategies to help their child acclimate to the earlier bedtime and fall asleep earlier. At the end of this testing period, children will participate in another overnight lab visit (described above).
Sleep physiology and cognition (e.g., inhibitory control) will be compared between the baseline and sleep extension testing periods to assess the effects of sleep extension on cognition in children with ADHD.
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