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Can ADHD Make You Feel Tired?
ADHD is a complex condition with various traits and symptoms that vary from person to person. Some folks with ADHD struggle to concentrate on tasks, sit still, or act impulsively. As everybody with ADHD has a unique experience of their symptoms, this can lead to misconceptions from others about their energy levels.
These misconceptions are often based on symptoms. For example, concentrating on tasks or sitting still can be a real struggle for some folks. For others, impulsivity might lead to behavior that comes across as 'hyperactive.' These behaviors involve executive functioning, which we know is often disrupted in people with ADHD. From an outsider's perspective, it may seem like adults with ADHD are always buzzing with excitement and energy. 🐝 However, research tells us that a frequent symptom of ADHD is fatigue - particularly inattentive ADHD.
The Mini ADHD Coach Medical Advisor says: “Due to dysfunction in the dopamine system of people with ADHD there is often a constant feeling of restlessness and agitation which motivates people to seek out actions and behaviors that provide relief. These relief-seeking behaviors can make it appear like a person has a lot of energy when in reality — it’s quite an exhausting way to live.”
It’s essential to recognize that many of us can indeed feel tired all the time with ADHD. And, when you take the vast range of symptoms we can experience daily, you'll be able to understand why. 👇
The ADHD Symptoms That Can Lead To Fatigue
Hyperactivity, one of the many symptoms of ADHD, plays a significant role in fatigue.
It goes beyond physical restlessness and fidgeting; it includes mental hyperactivity, too. Those racing thoughts can lead to a lot of daydreaming and a lack of focus.
But hyperactivity can be draining. If you encounter someone with the hyperactive ADHD subtype, you might think they're always on the go. They're the leg-bouncers who have trouble thinking clearly when not in motion. But here's the thing: it's not intentional. These restless symptoms are a result of a dopamine dysregulation within their brain.
The same goes for individuals with the inattentive ADHD subtype. They might not appear as hyperactive, but they still struggle. Some of us with this type have difficulty focusing, daydreaming, and listening when spoken to. They might appear impulsive or 'scattered,' making them appear hyperactive. But in reality, it's usually a stress response. 🤯 And, some individuals with ADHD experience fatigue because they must make so much effort to keep up with the world around them.
So, whether it's the restless body or the racing mind, hyperactivity in ADHD can take its toll and leave us exhausted.
For adults with ADHD, the inability to slow down at night can have a domino effect. 🌀
Sleep difficulties can make falling asleep or waking up in the morning challenging and exacerbate symptoms. Let me give you an example of how this difficulty sleeping shows up for me. 👇
Recently, I had a super busy day; with a back-to-back schedule. I couldn't wait to crawl into bed at the end of it. I assumed that after such a long day, I'd fall asleep. However, my brain would not switch off. 🥺I found myself scrolling endlessly on social media. Finally, I fell asleep. But I lost so many hours to insomnia, so I got much less sleep than I needed. 😴 This led to an unproductive day and relying on more caffeine ☕ than usual.
I've talked about how many of us with ADHD struggle with sleep before. This can be due to a few factors, such as hyperactive symptoms or circadian rhythm disruptions. When there's a delay in the circadian rhythm, the internal 'sleep schedule' is disturbed. This can lead to difficulty falling asleep and waking up on time.
According to research, having ADHD can also make you susceptible to sleep disorders. 🔎 For example, sleep-disordered breathing (such as sleep apnea) affects up to one-third of people with ADHD. It's also been found that nearly half of people with ADHD experience restless legs (RLS) at night.
One thing to remember is that sleep deprivation can play tricks on us. Many experts agree that it can worsen symptoms or even mimic them altogether. So, when seeking professional medical advice, your doctor must determine which. They will likely also want to rule out any underlying health conditions to reach an accurate ADHD diagnosis. ✅
Sensory overload and tiredness often go hand in hand with ADHD. Neurodivergent brains aren’t great at filtering out excess stimuli. Sometimes, we hear every noise, and feel every sensation - which gets exhausting.
Research has shown this activates the sympathetic nervous system, triggering the "fight or flight" stress response, leaving you overwhelmed and drained. With this in mind, it's no surprise that sensory sensitivity can lead to brain fog and burnout. If left unaddressed, this can even develop into chronic fatigue syndrome.
ADHD can't take all the blame for fatigue, as it's not the only culprit. Burnout, anxiety, and depression can drain a person's energy and make functioning difficult. But ADHD fatigue hits differently, and understanding potential causes behind it is crucial to figure out how to move forward. If you are dealing with chronic fatigue, seeking medical attention is essential. In the meantime, we can do a few things to prevent and reduce tiredness. 👇
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How To Manage ADHD Fatigue
Although we can't control the wiring of our brain or our symptoms, we can take steps to manage them. Although there are many different treatment options, sometimes prevention is better than a cure. Here are some helpful ways you can prevent tiredness from taking over your life:
Have a wind-down routine before bed
Sleep hygiene is extra important for those of us with ADHD, especially if you have difficulties with sleep. Consider developing a sleep routine that reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation, such as journaling, yoga, meditation, or listening to white noise.
Get moving with exercise
Exercise is another effective way to channel and burn excess energy, making it easier to rest at night. Depending on your unique circumstances, it can serve as a valuable outlet for your mind and body and give a sense of achievement. If you struggle with the energy to exercise, there are wellness professionals that can support you with this.
Make an effort to slow down.
Practice mindfulness and avoid overthinking when trying to fall asleep by engaging in meditation and grounding techniques. Deep breathing exercises can also help bring you back to the present moment.
Find a sense of purpose with activities that bring you joy.
Maintaining a hobby that brings you joy during challenging times is essential. Whether exploring nature, walking in the park, or spending time with your pet, find an activity that resonates with you.
Seek professional support
Seeking help from professionals with the relevant experience can help you manage symptoms and rule out an underlying medical condition. Speaking with a sleep specialist may also be helpful, especially if you have a sleep disorder diagnosis. Many treatment options for managing symptoms include therapy and drug treatments e.g. psychostimulant medication.
Knowledge is power, and reading peer reviewed studies and reliable sources about health and fitness can give you the tools to stay well. Identify activities that may contribute to fatigue or any underlying sleep disorder.
Nutrition is just as important as medication and therapy for people with ADHD. Embrace a healthy diet by avoiding high-sugar foods, especially at night. While they might give you a short-term boost, they tend to lead to a crash later. They also exacerbate hyperactivity and sleep disturbances. Caffeine tends to do the same; it's fine in small doses, and relying on it when you're exhausted can be tempting.
Living with ADHD can often lead to fatigue. Despite the high-energy ADHD stereotype, scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that fatigue is common. Understanding the underlying causes is crucial for managing our energy levels.
Hyperactivity, sleep struggles, and sensory overload are a few of these causes. But ADHD isn't the only cause of exhaustion; other mental health issues can also play a part. Understanding and addressing these factors empower us to seek the proper support and find solutions.
While we can't change the wiring of our brain, there are steps we can take to manage fatigue. But remember, prevention is often better than a cure. By implementing preventative strategies and prioritizing self-care, we can regain control of our energy levels, improve executive functioning and manage our symptoms more effectively.
ADHD and Being Always Tired: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can ADHD make you feel tired?
Yes, absolutely. Many people with ADHD experience fatigue and exhaustion. Even if they appear hyperactive, many individuals with ADHD feel tired and may even develop chronic fatigue syndrome. This is because some symptoms, such as hyperactivity and sensory overload, can lead to fatigue. These symptoms can make sleeping challenging, further contributing to their tiredness. Symptoms relating to sensory overload can result in mental and physical exhaustion.
Why do people with ADHD have trouble sleeping?
People with ADHD are more likely to develop sleep disorders. This includes sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and a delayed circadian rhythm. Sleep deprivation can also worsen symptoms or mimic them, making an accurate diagnosis and treatment essential.
How can you address fatigue and exhaustion in ADHD?
The best way to address ADHD-related fatigue is prevention. This can look like preventing exhaustion with self-care and addressing symptoms. This is best done with the help and supervision of an expert mental health professional. Not only can they point to the cause of your exhaustion, but they can also provide you with the appropriate treatment, such as medication and therapy.