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ADHD insomnia: How does having ADHD affect sleep?

ADHD insomnia

ADHD insomnia is a relatively common struggle for people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Many symptoms of ADHD, from trouble concentrating, to hyperarousal and stimulation can often make it difficult to get a good night’s rest.

Today we’ll give you advice on how to manage if you or your loved ones suffer from insomnia and ADHD. 

Countless ADHD patients suffer with numerous sleep disorders, and especially sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, the side effects of not getting enough sleep can also make ADHD symptoms a lot worse. 

ADHD insomnia exacerbates mental and cognitive issues for those who already struggle with concentration, focus, and impulse management. Because of this, many doctors creating treatment plans for ADHD patients will also take potential sleep disorders into account. 

If, like around 67% of people with ADHD, you find it hard to get a good night’s sleep, it might be time to learn a little more about the connection between insomnia, and ADHD. 

ADHD and insomnia: Where’s the connection?

Mental health conditions and issues affecting the functioning of the brain can commonly impact our sleep pattern. The way your brain processes information, signals, and chemicals impacts how the basic central nervous system operates. Hence, your circadian rhythm and sleep pattern can be severely disturbed in ADHD and ADD. 

ADHD insomnia is the name typically used to refer to a common sleep condition many ADHD patients suffer from. Research shows us that, from early childhood, people with ADHD are more likely than most to suffer from issues with their sleep pattern. This includes reduced quality of sleep, and trouble staying asleep. 

In fact, according to one study, insomnia was found in 44.4% of ADHD adult patients. Additionally, the condition was more prominent among people with more severe ADHD symptoms. 

It’s not just ADHD Insomnia that these individuals deal with either. There are various kinds of sleep problems that have connections with ADHD. For instance, nightmares are more common in children with ADHD. 

The type of ADHD you experience can also influence the sleep issues you experience. People with hyperactive and impulsive tendencies are more likely to be insomniacs, while people with inattentive symptoms generally have shorter sleep periods. 

ADHD insomnia can be difficult to live with. Trouble sleeping can exacerbate all ADHD symptoms, causing daytime fatigue, mood swings, and conflicts with your nearest and dearest. The worse the symptoms are, the more likely they are to cause further imbalance, leading to a vicious cycle. 

Interestingly, ADHD goes undiagnosed in some patients, because the symptoms are so similar to those of sleep deprivation. Fatigue can cause hyperactive and impulsive behavior, as well as trouble concentrating, poor cognition, and memory lapses. 

ADHD young Woman

Why do ADHD people struggle to sleep?

Research is still ongoing into the causes of ADHD insomnia, and other ADHD-related sleep disorders. Some scientists believe the problems ADHD patients have with sleep are as a result of differences in the brain of ADHD patients.

These differences cause impairments in the control of arousal and alertness. Others say the problem could be linked to issues purely with the circadian rhythm, mainly the melatonin production. Melatonin is the substance in the body responsible for a range of activities, from controlling the metabolism, to managing our sleep-wake cycle. 

There is a known link between delayed and diminished melatonin production and sleep disorders in patients with ADHD. They often suffer from Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). 

Some of the overall reasons people suffer with ADHD insomnia include:

Circadian rhythm disruptions
The circadian rhythm is the natural clock our body follows each day, telling us when we should be alert, or sleepy. If you have ADHD you might have a different circadian rhythm to most of us, which could mean you feel more alert or tired at unusual times of the day. Some ADHD patients feel more focused and alert at night than they do during the day.    

Hyperfocus and arousal
A common symptom of ADHD is hyperstimulation, or overfocus, which can occur at random times. Many people with this condition get “locked in” on a specific topic, which can cause them to lose track of time, and become more alert when they should be preparing for rest. This also leads to “time blindness”, which means ADHD individuals don’t realize how much time is actually passing when they’re engaged in an activity.  

Medication side effects
While some individuals find their medications calming and helpful for sleep, others find these products to be highly stimulating. Substances like Adderall used for ADHD are stimulants, which can force the body into an alert mode, when you want to rest. Co-existing disorders such as depression and anxiety can also need treatment with medications which influence sleep. 

Sleep disorders in people with ADHD 

ADHD insomnia might be the most common sleep disorder for people with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, but it’s far from the only issue these individuals encounter. Insomnia is most common among ADHD patients who experience high levels of hyperactivity and poor impulse control during the day. 

Insomnia can also be caused by periods of increased focus during the evenings, when some patients feel they have more of an opportunity to focus on their interests without distraction. However, there are various other conditions which can occur as a result of ADHD, such as:

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders

Many people with ADHD, particularly younger patients, find they’re more alert in the evening. This often leads to the development of an atypical sleep schedule, which can make it harder for them to wake up in the morning and adhere to a typical daily routine. As mentioned earlier, issues with melatonin production can also contribute to circadian rhythm disruptions in people with ADHD. 

A common disorder for many ADHD patients is DSPS, a type of circadian rhythm problem which is defined by a delay in the sleep-wake cycle of two hours or more. 

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, or DSPS, make it harder for individuals to fall asleep at night, causing trouble waking up during the morning and excessive daytime sleepiness. Melatonin supplements and bright light therapy can sometimes be used to address this condition. 

Disordered breathing or sleep apnea

Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) conditions, and sleep apnea are common among people with ADHD. SDB leads to disturbed sleep, often by causing individuals to wake up due to loud snoring, or as a result of the body attempting to re-align the person’s breathing. The greater the issue, the more disturbed the sleep pattern becomes, which causes exacerbated ADHD symptoms. 

Some studies show removing the tonsils can reduce the need for stimulants and other medications in children with SDB. 

However, for people with sleep apnea, the treatment options may be a little different. Most doctors will recommend using CPAP therapy for adults who suffer from breathing disorders when they’re asleep. 

Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) causes a tingling tension or an extreme desire for movement in the legs and other parts of the body, which can make it difficult to sleep. People with this condition often move around randomly during the night, and can struggle to reach periods of deep sleep. 

Patients with both ADHD and RLS can struggle with very disrupted sleep, which mean they end up with a less restorative night of sleep, regardless of how long they attempt to sleep for. 

Some researchers believe RLS is caused by a deficiency in dopamine and iron, which are two problems also commonly linked to ADHD. People with ADHD tend to have low levels of dopamine in the brain. The sleep hormone melatonin and dopamine are also linked. Unfortunately supplementing with melatonin can further decrease dopamine


People with narcolepsy tend to fall asleep suddenly throughout the day, which can also cause difficulties with sleeping at night. Interestingly, adults with narcolepsy are twice as likely to have had symptoms of ADHD as a child.  

However, scientists are still attempting to explore the connection between these two conditions. It’s possible that both issues could be linked to neurotransmission issues in the brain, as well as gene abnormalities. 

Notably, all of these conditions can occur independently (separately from ADHD). This means any treatment option should consider both conditions individually. 

ADHD and melatonin: Treating ADHD insomnia

There are treatment options available for both insomnia and ADHD. Many of which provide overlapping support for both of the conditions. 

The main option is to take melatonin for ADHD insomnia as research shows a possible lack of this hormone in people who suffer from ADHD. For patients in search of OTC treatment solutions, there are these obvious connections between ADHD and melatonin, which could be useful. 

Melatonin supplements can assist in managing the circadian rhythm, which could help to reduce the symptoms of various sleep disorders.

There are diverse options in melatonin supplementation. Tablets, gummies, spray and liquid form. There’s also extended-release melatonin, some approved especially for children with autism spectrum disorders. 

Some antidepressants can also assist with ADHD insomnia and sleep disorders. You’d want to try the antidepressants with some sleep inducing qualities such as the tricyclic antidepressants, Mirtazapine or Trazodone

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another common treatment option. It has been shown to assist individuals with ADHD in learning skills to better manage their time, control impulses, and stick to healthier sleep schedules. 

Other options include:

Adjusting sleep routines
People with ADHD are often advised to revise their sleep routine to fit with their life and needs more effectively. Depending on your work situation and study schedule, it may be possible to change your sleep schedule so you do more work at night, and less during the day. 

Track sleep quality
Using apps and tools to track sleep duration and quality can help ADHD patients to identify patterns in sleep disturbances, and come up with strategies to overcome them. Tracking sleep can also make it easier for doctors to define whether other disorders or conditions are contributing to ADHD symptoms. 

Improving sleep hygiene
Taking steps to improve sleep hygiene, such as cutting down sugar, caffeine and alcohol intake, avoiding screen time before bed, and avoiding stimulating activities before sleep can be helpful. It may also be useful to adjust the sleep environment, focusing on making the bedroom a stress-free zone. 

Dealing with ADHD and insomnia

ADHD and insomnia are both complex conditions on their own. When they’re combined, they can make life very difficult for any individual. If you’re suffering from ADHD insomnia, the best thing you can do is speak to a medical professional about your options. 

They may be able to look at your medication carefully, and remove anything which might be making your condition worse, or suggest various forms of natural treatments to assist you. 

So, the conclusion is it’s worth taking a closer look into the reasons behind your sleep disturbances, so you can gain a clear understanding of whether your ADHD might be part of your sleep problem. 

Siestio. Sleep Matters.

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