Sleep & Mornings

Up All Night — for All the Wrong Reasons?

Sleep disturbances are a frustrating byproduct of ADHD. When a buzzing mind or persistent worry won’t let you rest, try these strategies.

A man with ADHD lays in bed awake with insomnia
A man with ADHD lays in bed awake with insomnia

Many adults with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) complain of restless nights and exhausted mornings. Sometimes, ADHD medications cause adverse reactions, other times a turbo-speed brain keeps you up. Just as there is no one reason for ADHD-related sleep disturbances, there is no one solution that works for everyone. Here are a handful of options to address ADHD sleep problems from ADDitude’s experts…

Adjust Your ADHD Medication

ADHD medications can spark sleep problems in some adults. If you suspect that this is the case, talk with your doctor about fine-tuning your treatment.

On the other hand, some ADHD experts believe that taking a stimulant 45 minutes before bedtime can shut off buzzing brains. “About two-thirds of my adult patients take a full dose of their ADHD medication every night to fall asleep,” says William Dodson, M.D., a psychiatrist based in Denver.

Kill the Light

Light activates the ADHD brain and keeps you awake longer. Prepare for sleep by shutting off or dimming lights by 9 p.m.

You can put overhead lights on a dimmer switch to gradually lessen the intensity of the light, and don’t spend time in front of a bright TV or computer screen after 9 p.m.

Slow Down Your Brain

Once you’re in bed, with lights off, use ADHD-friendly tools to help you relax, like a white noise machine, earplugs, or soothing music to counteract your racing thoughts. Relax one muscle at a time, starting at your feet and moving up, breathing out each time you reach a new muscle group.

Create Wake-Up and Wind-Down Routines

Waking up on time follows going to bed on time, and getting a full night’s rest. Develop routines to help you wake up happier and faster in the morning and ‘wind down’ at night.

These get-to-sleep and waking up easily routines can be simple — showering and watching the news each night, having coffee and reading the paper each morning.

Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. This will increase the quality of your sleep by letting your body enter into a daily rhythm, something that particularly benefits adults and children with ADHD. Not everyone requires the same amount of sleep, but consistency is the key, so work with your family to establish a sleep routine and stick to it.

Avoid Sleep Traps

Know your ADHD sleep traps and avoid them. If talking on the phone, watching TV, or checking e-mail keeps you up past your bedtime, post signs reminding you to stick to your schedule. Ask for help from family, so they know not to distract you from your goal.

Set a Bedtime Alarm

Program a wristwatch with an alarm, or set an alarm clock, to go off one hour before bedtime, so you have time to prepare for bed. If you often get stuck watching TV, place the alarm clock in another room, so you will be forced to get up to turn it off.

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