How Does ADHD Affect Your Sleep?

Dec 19, 2023
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If you or your child has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you probably already know that several coexisting conditions, including sleep disorders, can accompany it. Here’s what you need to know.

Although many people think of ADHD as a problem that children have, a significant number of adults grapple with the condition as well. Regardless of age, the symptoms of ADHD can create challenges and barriers. Adding a sleep disorder to the mix compounds some of those challenges and also leads to health issues. 

At Northeast Florida Internal Medicine, Elyssa Blissenbach, MD, and Lea-Anne Griffis, APRN,  treat adults with ADHD, and one component of that treatment is to discuss any coexisting conditions, including possible sleep disorders. Getting enough high-quality sleep is difficult for the majority of American adults, but for those who have ADHD, it can be particularly challenging. 

The numbers

According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), between 25 and 50% of parents of children with ADHD report their children have a sleep problem. The numbers are worse for adults, with nearly 70% struggling to sleep well. 

Why sleep matters

If most Americans are sleep-deprived, is it really a problem? The answer is, in short, yes. Lack of high-quality sleep is associated with numerous issues. For example, people with ADHD who don’t get enough sleep may experience more hyperactivity and inattention, as well as more difficulty in processing information. Further, over time, lack of sleep can make it more likely you’ll develop heart disease, obesity, or other chronic health conditions. 

A vicious cycle develops

You struggle to sleep, and your ADHD symptoms get worse, which makes the possibility of getting a good night’s sleep less likely. Then, you feel increasingly fatigued during the daytime, making you struggle to concentrate, feel more anxious, have difficulty remembering things and following directions, and so on. 

Lack of sleep intensifies the symptoms you already have because of ADHD. You may not know whether your symptoms are associated with the condition or with sleep deprivation. 

Types of sleep problems in ADHD

People with ADHD tend to have different sleep problems, depending on how the ADHD affects them. If you tend to have inattentive symptoms, you may struggle to go to bed early enough to get enough sleep. If you tend to have hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, you’re more likely to have issues staying asleep or with insomnia. If you have combined ADHD, you may have both types of sleep problems. 

Stimulants are a common ADHD treatment and help some people sleep, but may disrupt sleep for others. Other medications are available, though they work differently. 

What you can do

Good sleep hygiene is important for everyone, but if you have ADHD, it may be especially crucial. Here are a few things you can do to encourage good sleep: 

  • Avoid napping
  • Don’t consume caffeine for at least 4 hours before bedtime
  • Take your medication as early in the day as possible
  • Create a bedtime routine with calming elements like a warm bath, lowering the lights an hour before bed, turning off screens well before bedtime
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule
  • Make your bedroom sleep-friendly — dark, cool, and comfortable

One of the most important things you can do if you’re struggling to get enough sleep and you have ADHD is to talk to your healthcare provider. Schedule an appointment at Northeast Florida Internal Medicine for an evaluation and personalized advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.