ADHD Sleep

Understanding the Complex Relationship Between ADHD and Sleep

ADHD significantly affects sleep patterns and quality, often leading to difficulties in falling asleep, restless nights, and irregular sleep schedules. The hyperarousal associated with ADHD can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, while the condition's symptoms, like inattention and hyperactivity, can prolong bedtime routines. This intricate connection between ADHD and sleep disorders is underlined by both neurological factors and behavioral tendencies. Addressing sleep issues is crucial for managing ADHD effectively, as adequate sleep can significantly improve overall functioning and quality of life for those with ADHD.

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Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

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The Connection Between ADHD & Sleep

So there's this one time that I needed to finish some projects and had to take coffee to keep my brain active while doing these tasks that need to be accomplished within the day. I consumed two cups of cold-brewed coffee, palpitated for the next two to three hours, and gained little boost that coffee should have given me to finish what I needed to do. ADHD & coffee doesn't sit well with me. But some people I know have a harmonious relationship with caffeine.

But, I'd like to address a more pressing issue than my caffeine intake. The fact that I need to keep awake early in the morning by consuming another energy-filled coffee is quite questionable to me. I am not a morning person. I struggle to get up once my alarm rings. After I sleep for almost six hours, the exhaustion I feel the following day is still there. ADHD plays a big part in my struggle with mornings and before going to bed. Sometimes, people with ADHD tend to have sleep problems, and maybe it is because that is how we are wired.

sleep issues are very common among people with ADHD...

In a survey done by the National Sleep Foundation, it was shown that children with ADHD have more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep compared to those who do not have ADHD. The report also indicates that sleeping becomes elusive and often challenging as a person with ADHD grows up. But, what's with ADHD & sleep that makes us struggle to have a good night's rest?

Sleep Problems and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

In a much more specific study to correlate comorbidity between ADHD and common sleep disorders, 43% of the adults with ADHD also have insomnia. The same research also found that 41% of the respondents have trouble sleeping for a long duration and sometimes have delayed sleep timing. These people who have poor sleep quality also have more trouble paying attention the next day.

people with ADHD are more likely to suffer from insomnia...

ADHD and sleep disorders may come together, preventing you from sleeping soundly at night and give daytime sleepiness when you need most of your work done. According to the same study, adult ADHD diagnosis can provide you with plenty of sleep disturbances, whether categorized as Predominantly Inattentive, Predominantly Hyperactive, or Combined.

There are many reasons why people with ADHD have trouble sleeping. Some ADHD symptoms might have a direct cause for this. And sometimes, we must adapt to our sleeping environment and have some sleep hygiene to help us deal with our sleeping problems. However, sleep disturbance can still happen even though we have the most comfortable environment and cozy bedtime routine. But do you wonder why people with ADHD don't get enough sleep?

What's Going Through a Hyperactive ADHD Brain?

ADHD doesn't only present as someone with an unlimited energy supply who cannot sit still. There are other sub-categories of ADHD. They are often not diagnosed easily because of hard-to-spot symptoms such as difficulty maintaining focus, difficulty organizing tasks and daily activities, and difficulty with time management. These ADHD traits can go inside an ADHD brain and sometimes don't reflect on a person physically. The hyperactivity can happen inside a person's brain instead of having the outlet to release all that excess energy.

or racing thoughts that prevent them from falling asleep

Having racing thoughts can send a person with ADHD into battling with their bed over time, and our ADHD brains often get victorious in running different scenarios in our heads. Overthinking can sometimes be a part of our normal sleep "schedule." It's just that it makes us more wired than sleepy. And when this hyperactive brain runs in a full circle, sleep issues can happen, giving us sleep deprivation and making us function less the following day.

Our sleep patterns are sometimes disrupted when we think about too much. Sometimes we worry about the future, uncertainties may hit us hard, or we often think about mistakes we should not have made. These things can contribute a lot to having poor sleep hygiene, and when we finally decide to call it a night, restless sleep becomes our new best friend.

What's the Deal with Sleeping and ADHD?

Having a hyperactive brain at night can prevent you from sleeping soundly and getting the prescribed rest that your body needs. You may have laid down on your bed at around 9 p.m., but you'll probably last long enough past midnight, or even worse, before the sun rises.

Have you experienced a tired body and wanted to sleep so bad, but your ADHD brain won't let you? That is the complicated relationship between ADHD and sleeping. Even if you are exhausted and want to be knocked out and stop all that brain activity for a while, your ADHD brain will still not let you.

sleep issues can also be a side effect of ADHD medication

Also, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has some symptoms that can keep us awake at night. These common symptoms make it hard for us to fall asleep fast and have a good night's rest. It is important to note that not all people with ADHD will experience the same sleeping problems.

  • Easily Distracted

Have you tried scrolling to the Facebook Reels or For You Page of Tiktok? There is lots of stuff that you can't just quickly stop. Even though there are times that we are aware that we should be sleeping, we often find ourselves engaged in another activity that is not related to sleep. The thing is, we can't just stop and go to sleep. The next day, there'll always be difficulty waking up.

  • Sound Sensitivity or Sensory Overload

There are times as well that sleep difficulties are always there because of our sensory sensitivity issues. If there is a slight difference in the temperature, we'll most likely have trouble sleeping. Too much noise from the busy street? It will keep us up all night. The light is already turned off, and you want to keep the bedroom dark? It will bother our sleep. Finding a sweet spot for people with ADHD and sleeping is hard.

  • Impulsivity

When you are about to sleep, and everything is already set, you notice that clean clothes are waiting to be organized, and you still have that urge to finish them quickly. When you are almost finished, you notice that the wardrobe needs further cleaning. Sometimes, we lack the self-control to do these things instead of sleeping well.

  • Difficulty Handling Emotions

When we are over the moon and enjoy the feeling of a budding relationship or in a state of grief, anger, or anxiety, these emotions can significantly affect our sleeping habits. People with ADHD find it hard to deal with their feelings and this causes further sleep issues. Our emotions can sometimes prevent us from having a consistent bedtime routine, further complicating our sleep problems.

Not to mention the ADHD medications you'll take if your mental health professional advises. Sometimes, these medications can have side effects of making you sleep once you take them. Once medicated, most of the time, your body's sleeping pattern will be disrupted by it.

Another thing about ADHD and sleep is the presence of co-morbid situations caused by one another. Sometimes, if this disrupted sleeping pattern is not addressed at its early onset, it can become a more serious, more problematic condition affecting your mental health.

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Do You Wonder Why Your ADHD Brain is More Active At Night?

Are you like me, that functions better during nighttime? There are specific tasks that I can only concentrate and hyperfocus on during the night that I cannot do during the daytime. This makes me wonder what does my ADHD got to do with it? Is it a good sleep hygiene practice?

Upon careful research and analysis, it still got to do something with our ability to focus and respond to stimuli and disturbing environments. During the daytime, people are usually awake, and there are more stimuli or activities surrounding us. This makes it hard for us to maintain our attention span and hyperfocus on what we need to accomplish with our work. The chances of being disturbed during the day are far greater than when we do our tasks at night.

Experiencing hyperfocus at night can also increase productivity because of more minor disturbances. This is why many ADHD adults feel productive at night. The peacefulness and serenity we tend to enjoy add up to the hyperfocus we think. The distractions are less likely to bother us because there aren't many people around trying to get our attention.

During the nighttime, you're like the only person awake. It's like having your time during midnight when everyone else is fast asleep and not bothering you with their presence or noise levels around you.

The Different Sleeping Disorders You May Encounter

Sleeping Disorders are the time you spend sleeping that is either shorter than usual or longer than recommended for your age. Many ADHD patients are said to have some sleeping disorder, while others may even be diagnosed with one.

The presence of adequate and relaxing sleep, especially for people with ADHD, is essential for a refreshed and healthier lifestyle. Also, having enough sleep can invigorate a person's better coping ability when dealing with daily challenges.

But if these conditions aren't met, you should talk to your sleep specialist for additional help. You may suffer from sleep disorders that prevent you from completing your daily sleep requirement to function properly the next day. Here are some of the sleeping disorders that you may experience:

  • Narcolepsy is a sleeping disorder involving uncontrollable urges to sleep at random times. Even if you are in the middle of something, even if you're having fun and enjoying yourself, narcolepsy patient experiences excessive daytime sleepiness that can cause them to pass out or lose consciousness at any given time.
  • Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes you to have pauses in your breathing during sleep. These intervals of no breathing can last long enough for you to wake up and realize it before falling back asleep again. Obstructive sleep apnea also creates snoring, which causes you to lack the oxygen your body needs.
  • Insomnia is when you can't seem to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, which causes you to feel tired during the day. Those with insomnia can take several hours before falling asleep; once they do, they may wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Also, when having insomnia, patients experience difficulty falling back asleep when awoken during sleeping hours.
  • Sleep Walking and Sleep Talking is a sleeping disorder that causes you to do certain activities while still in bed asleep. Sleepwalkers, for example, can stand up from their beds and wander around the house aimlessly. They may even mumble something incoherently or produce random sounds that don't make sense.
  • Night Terrors is a condition that usually occurs in children but can also affect adults who suffer from sleep disorders. Night terrors typically cause the patient to sit in bed, screaming and flailing their arms with wide eyes while unaware of their surroundings.
  • REM Sleep Behavior Disorder is when you act out your dreams by kicking, punching, and shouting during sleep. When engaging in REM sleep behavior disorder, one usually has no recollection of it the next day, even if they're sleeping beside someone else who experienced it.
  • Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders is a condition that causes your internal body clock to be out of wack and causes disruption in the usual sleeping and waking times. Those with this type of sleep disorder can lie down and close their eyes at night but will not feel tired enough to fall asleep.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome is a disorder that causes an urge to move your legs while trying to sleep. This happens because of the leg discomfort, making it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.

These are just some of the most common sleep disorders. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any of these symptoms if you are experiencing them so that the appropriate help can be given soon. It is necessary to ask for help if these sleep disorders prevent you from functioning well the next day.

There are moments when ADHD & Sleep might get in your way and prevent you from functioning well during the daytime or give you trouble paying attention. You can try a different approach to managing these challenges by talking to your doctor. You can also ask for a sleep specialist's help to determine if you have any sleeping disorder causing these problems. Addressing these issues as soon as possible can help you obtain the quality of life that you deserve.

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ADHD Sleep FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is having a sleep problem a symptom of ADHD?

If you look at the official signs and symptoms of ADHD, having a sleep problem is NOT included. That’s not to say, though, that they are unrelated. In fact, reports say that a lot of people with this neurodivergent condition also suffer from some type of sleep problem. This may be due to some of the traits, like having hyperactive thoughts, being more productive at night, and having sensory overload.

What are some of the common sleep disorders a person with ADHD may experience?

Some of the most common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and circadian rhythm disorders.

How do you deal with sleep problems when you have ADHD?

The most important step to take is to consult a doctor or a sleep specialist to determine if you are indeed experiencing a sleep disorder. From there, you can come up with ways on how to have a good-quality sleep every night.

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