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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Neuroscience and Behavior

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Rebecca Spencer

Subject Categories

Cognitive Neuroscience | Developmental Neuroscience


Alongside the hallmark symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention, children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often report having sleep problems. Although sleep deficits are consistently found when evaluated subjectively, impairments in sleep physiology are inconsistent. Compared to typically developing (TD) children, children with ADHD have greater spectral power in the delta (0.5 to 4 Hz) and theta frequency bands (4 to 7 Hz). Moreover, activity in these bands is differentially related to cognitive outcomes in ADHD and TD populations. As such, this dissertation sought to examine relations between sleep physiology and inhibitory control, a primary deficit of ADHD, in young children with and without ADHD. In the first study, children completed a Go/No-Go task before and after polysomnography-monitored overnight sleep. Inhibitory control was improved with overnight sleep in TD children but not in children with ADHD. Morning inhibitory control was positively correlated with rapid eye movement (REM) theta activity in TD children. Although theta activity was greater in the ADHD group, it was not associated with subsequent behavior. In the second study, separate groups of children, with and without ADHD, participated in a sleep-based intervention to determine whether extending overnight sleep duration would reduce theta activity and, in turn, improve inhibitory control. Again, inhibitory control was gauged via a Go/No-Go task and overnight sleep physiology measured with polysomnography. The results of this second study indicate that children with and without ADHD were able to extend overnight sleep duration when bedtime was advanced. In the ADHD group, inhibitory control was improved only when sleep duration was extended. Inhibitory control was improved following overnight sleep in the TD group (regardless of sleep extension), consistent with the results of the first study. In contrast to the results of the first study, however, morning inhibitory control was associated with SWA but not theta activity (recorded during sleep or wake). Specifically, less SWA was related to greater morning inhibitory control in children with ADHD when overnight sleep duration was extended. Collectively, the results of this dissertation suggest that markers of sleep physiology are uniquely related to inhibitory functioning in children with and without ADHD.