Adults with ADHD and the Sleep Problems They Face

It’s widely acknowledged that experts are working hard to explore further the ties between ADHD and sleep, but until then, people living with the condition are looking to discover useful tips and information that they can use to reduce both long and short-term effects of sleep loss due to their ADHD.

Firstly, it’s important to get to grips with just why ADHD affects sleep. It can begin to disturb sleep typically from around the age of 12 but doesn’t always correspond with other symptoms that arise, although it can stay with ADHD patients into adult life.

What’s more, the medication taken to reduce ADHD symptoms, as well as the symptoms themselves can interrupt sleep. This is a sticky situation because when sleep is compromised, the ADHD symptoms are often amplified.

To give you an idea of what sleep disorders are commonly associated with ADHD, the chief ones include:


Insomnia can affect a lot of people, and it can come down to things such as not having the right mattress for your sleep style or needs. However, when ADHD is thrown into the mix as well, the problem that individuals with ADHD experience; the sudden bursts of energy as soon as they get into bed, or simply being unable to get their mind into power down mode, means they end up lying in bed awake for too long before falling asleep.

It’s not just the act of falling asleep that can be muddied either, because once ADHD sufferers do fall asleep, it’s not always particularly restful. Furthermore, restlessness and being a notably light sleeper come into the equation.

When sleep is broken up in this type of way it causes unwanted drowsiness during the daytime, making even day-to-day life more difficult, let alone dealing with ADHD too!

Sleep Apnoea

Almost a third of those who live with ADHD state that they experience a host of sleep-disorder breathing issues, with snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea both high on the list. And associated with this type of ailment is obesity, and it’s known to be a big issue too, with around 40% of individuals with ADHD enduring an issue with weight.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) takes place when an individual experiences sudden movement of a limb or limbs sporadically while they are sleeping. The muscle twitching taking place is strong enough to wake suffers from this issue from their state of sleep.

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome, otherwise referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological problem that brings about a tingling sensation in the lower limbs as well as an irresistible urge to move said limbs in order to achieve some kind of relief, and this happens largely when people are asleep or resting.

In the US, a mere 2% of the population suffers from RLS in the general population, but when we look to those with ADHD, the issue spikes significantly to 50% of sufferers.

Delayed Sleep-Phase Disorder

Delayed Sleep-Phase Disorder is a problem with the body’s circadian rhythm that essentially throws your body clock out of sync with regular sleep-wake patterns. The ailments that link to this issue mean people end up falling asleep later and subsequently waking up later too.

DSPD usually brings daytime sleepiness as a result. This is obviously something that you don’t want to have to deal with when you have a busy work life, social life, family, and of course when sleep is such a principal element in sedating ADHD symptoms.

Tips for Adults with ADHD to get better sleep

  •      Form a regular bedtime and wake-up routine: Head off within a set time each evening and then make sure that you’re out of bed or at least wake up by a set time each morning. This will do wonders to support healthy sleep and overall well-being.
  •      Exercise: ADHD typically means there’s more energy to play with, which works perfectly because having a regular exercise routine is a proven way to help secure sound slumber. It will also assist with remaining asleep once you do doze off.
  •      Leave hyperfocus activities for the daytime: This is simply to prevent disengagement issues around bedtime that those with ADHD will know all about. Instead, save these activities for the day hours.
  •      Take warm baths: enjoying a warm bath is a renowned way to relax the muscles and soothe state of mind. This is absolutely one of the oldest natural sleep aids there are!
  •      Sip herbal teas: Drinking teas such as these are super for promoting natural relaxation and a more seamless transition into stage 1 of sleep. Chamomile and passionflower are two of the most effective.
  •     Use positive mental attitude techniques: This will give you chance to readjust your mind, its focus and your thoughts on to happy thoughts.

These ideas are all known to work, but some will be more effectual for certain individuals than others. Therefore, it’s worth giving them all a go, to decipher what works for best for you and your needs.

Article by Sarah Cummings
The Sleep Advisor


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    1. Reply

      ADD/ADHD may very well be a number of different problems all grouped together by common symptoms. Despite the fact that some types of ADD respond to amphetamines, insufficient dopamine itself is usually not the cause of ADD. Insufficient dopamine trasporter or lack of magnesium due to hyper-excretion may be issues in some cases. But most likely ADD won’t really be understood till it’s broken out into multiple sub-groups.

      Some forms of ADD are, arguably, towards the normal end of the autism spectrum which would mean that things like ubiquinol which help improve anti-oxidant status in some people with autistsm might also help people with ADD.

      • S
      • August 6, 2019

      As an adult with ADHD, having worked in healthcare ehh 20 years. My work has taken me through situations where I’ve worked nights where I’ve worked days. worked on call shifts. After attempted both on and off medications. I found if I get a regular sleep schedule and I take my stimulants without missing them I actually get better sleep and less day time sleepiness. If I flub up and take my medicine too late or I miss meds for a minute then yeah that messes up my sleep a little when I have to reintroduce. Shift work though on call it’s the worst the worst I just can’t people don’t understand this but I really just can’t I try and that’s like my ADD is on steroids. It’s brutal as hellish. I get random bouts of tiredness really crappy sleep wake up a lot by the time I get my sleep right again it’s time for me to be on call again. I’m middle-aged now and I’m really worried that I can’t do this until I’m retirement age and survive I need a career change I think but what?

    2. Reply

      The focus on positive thinking “happy thoughts” is overrated and negate the validity of anxiety to begin with. It’s ok to feel what we feel. There is nothing wrong with US at any given time. The anxiety is the brains MESSENGER that something isnt right anyway. Positive thinking techniques only compounds the anxiety in the long term. Think of it as a fever. If you cant figure out what is making you feel sick, when you started noticing the signs, then just relax/stimulate your mind either via exercise (as mentioned in the article), distractions eg movies, music, entertaining Ted clips or ytbe crash course or fun adult colouring, or closing the curtains and laying down in darkness or pillow over your head and close your eyes and just daydream away (that is infact opening the door for your mind to freely process without youre forcing it to take on more work including the redundant and futile positive thinking balogne) etc etc Positive thinking is only an attempt to trick your brain and itll bite you in the butt. Anxiety is valid. There is NOTHING wrong with YOU. Anxiety is just sensory overload and your brain is struggling. My point is: DONT fight it. Youll make yourself 10times worse. JUST ROLL WITH IT. ACCEPT IT. Accepting doesnt mean embracing. Youre simply just accepting it. It is what it is.

        • Psychologist
        • March 12, 2019

        Futile positive thinking bologna? Stress causes inflammation throughout the body. It’s not about ignoring stressors in life; it’s about being positive about them.

        Laugh at your stressors. Nothing is that big of a deal; take everything one thing at a time. 😀 I’ve seen some darkness, and if I had been negative it would have been worse for everyone.

        But to each their own lol. You do you; there isn’t much reason to allow unproductive stress.

        • Liza
        • February 12, 2019

        👍 agreed.

      • NeedToNapOnAddergil
      • January 18, 2019

      I’ve had DSPS, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, since I was a young teenager. I simply could not fall asleep at a “normal” hour (before 2 or 3 am) or wake up at one (before noon, 1, 2 pm, or even later). In college, I experienced excessive daytime sleepiness no matter how well I tailored my schedule to my DSPS. I started having “sleep attacks” leading to mandatory short naps several times a day, hypnogognic hallucinations while trying to sleep, inability to wake up at a set time in the AM even with four alarms and my partner helping me leave the bed, and a “cognitive delay” where I’m pretty much not there for an hour after an alarm wakes me. Even if I sleep to my “natural” rhythm, 2-3 am to 12-2 pm, with involuntary wakings at times, I still don’t feel rested and need to nap more than once during the afternoon and evening. I tried one of those phone sleep apps for a few weeks. I doubt they are reliable, but apparently I go into REM within six minutes, even less when taking a daytime post-“fell asleep at my desk” nap. I’d hoped my ADHD medication would have helped my sleep issues, but my meds are great for my ADHD but do not in any way impact my daytime auto-sleep moments, delayed sleep phase, inability to wake at a certain time and be quickly “alert”, need for many hours of sleep plus naps and–as I forgot to mention–occasional insomnia and waking throughout the night.

      I was then prescribed Provigil to help the excessive daytime sleepiness, but all it did was take the “sleep attacks” from full unconsciousness to “must go to bed now, about to collapse…ok, I’m in bed, exhausted, here’s those hypnogognic hallucinations, but why am I unable to fully go to sleep? Pointless!”

      I don’t know what seeing a sleep specialist will do, given that I’ve tried all the medications (that I know of at least) for narcolepsy/EDS to no avail.

      • Julie
      • January 15, 2019

      It’s hard to get the discipline to go to sleep at a decent hour when you have ADHD.

      • Reply

        I hear you and am affected by this as well. I sm going to give it a try. If nothing changes, nothing changes! Good luck!

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