Sleep & Mornings

Tired of Feeling Tired? How to Solve Common Sleep Problems

Sleep difficulties — falling asleep quickly, staying asleep consistently, and waking up on time — go hand-in-hand with adult ADHD. Here, Dr. Robert Olivardia advises strategies like progressive muscle relaxation or melatonin that may make the difference between a groggy next morning and a refreshed one.

An adult with adhd tries to turn off the lights and fall asleep.
1 of 10

The ADHD-Sleep Connection

If you're not sleeping well, every aspect of your life feels out of whack. For adults with ADHD, the root cause of sleep troubles, restless nights, or morning grogginess is often biological — but that doesn't mean you can't rest better. Here are the most common ADHD sleeping problems, why they happen, and how to overcome them and fall asleep.

Sleep affects your ADHD symptoms
ability to regulate emotions, focus, concentration, and appetite. big impact on ADHD symptoms.
2 of 10

Sleep Deprivation Makes You Angry, Stressed, and Fat

Sleep affects your stress levels, frustration tolerance, ability to regulate emotions, concentration, appetite, and metabolism. When you are sleep deprived, your body assumes you are staying awake longer than normal to search for food or water, and so your metabolism drops to conserve body fat. Over the long-term, this can add up. And as lack of sleep impacts every area of life, it naturally has a big impact on ADHD symptoms.

Man with ADHD sleeping
3 of 10

So Many Ways Not to Sleep

People with ADHD have trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep. They may wake up at random times, and not be able to return to sleep. Or, even with a lot of sleep, they feel like a zombie or have trouble staying alert. ADHD commonly occurs alongside sleep problems including narcolepsy, sleep walking, sleep talking, teeth grinding, restless leg syndrome, and especially sleep apnea. These can keep sufferers awake, or keep sleep from being restorative.

[Free Download: Mobile Apps for Better Sleep]

Male ADHD brain
4 of 10

The Biological Connection Between ADHD and Sleep

Certain biological factors may cause sleep problems. The ADHD brain has trouble regulating neurotransmitters; since serotonin helps control sleep cycles, this disregulation impacts your ability to fall and stay asleep. Additionally, many adults with ADHD exhibit a gene called catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), which suppresses an enzyme that metabolizes dopamine. This makes it harder for the body to regulate sleep.

Some ADHDers sleep, but never enter the rapid eye movement (REM) phase when dreams occur and the body is refreshed.
5 of 10

Sleep Is No Good Without REM

Some people with ADHD sleep, but never enter the rapid eye movement (REM) phase when dreams occur and the body is refreshed. Without REM, no amount of sleep will make you feel restored. Others have a disorder that keeps sleep from being restful. Some love nighttime because of the late burst of energy and focus they get during a time of day with no distractions. They can get a lot done, and are just not interested in sleeping.

Follow these steps to help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Think of these techniques as a toolbox for when you're laying awake. Some strategies will work some nights, and sometimes different triggers keeping you awake will require fresh solutions. Making these solutions work amy mean changing the activities you do before bed, the environment in which you sleep, and the medication and supplements you use.
6 of 10

How to Sleep Better

Follow these steps to help prepare your mind and body. Think of these techniques as a toolbox to help you fall asleep. Some strategies will work some nights, and sometimes different triggers keeping you awake will require fresh solutions. Some of these solutions may require changing the activities you do before bed, the environment in which you sleep, and the medication and supplements you use.

Take steps to signal to your mind and body, "Ok, it's time to sleep." Unplug from technology. Don't use your phone, watch stimulating shows, or play video games. The light from devices can throw off your sleep cycle. Play light music, like a classical music song on repeat. Change into your pajamas. Anything that marks a clear division between day and night.
7 of 10

Signal Your Mind and Body for Sleep

Take the following steps to mark a clear division between day and night and signal to your mind and body: "It's time to sleep."

  • Unplug from technology. Don't use your phone, watch TV shows, or play video games. The light from devices can throw off your sleep cycle.
  • Play light music, like a classical song on repeat.
  • Change into your pajamas.

[Wired, Tired, & Sleep Deprived]

People with ADHD tend to run hot. Make sure the climate in your bedroom is controlled at a cooler temperature so you're more likely to stay under the covers. Make your bedroom a dark, quiet place. Try using a sound machine to block out ambient noise. Once you're in bed, use progressive muscle relaxation to help you fall asleep by tensing then relaxing muscle groups. 
8 of 10

A Cool, Dark Place to Sleep

People with ADHD tend to run hot. Make sure the climate in your bedroom is controlled at a cooler temperature so you're more likely to stay under the covers. Make your bedroom a dark, quiet place. Try using a sound machine to block out ambient noise. Once you're in bed, use progressive muscle relaxation—tense, then relax, muscle groups—to help yourself slip into sleep.

Doctor writing a prescription for a patient with ADHD
9 of 10

Try Meds or Supplements

Though it may seem counterintuitive, stimulant medication can help calm ADHD hyperactivity enough to allow for sleep. Watch your caffeine intake to make sure it's not interfering with sleep. Consider melatonin; take it an hour before you want to get to bed, so your body has time to metabolize it. When it goes into effect, it will help regulate circadian rhythms to induce sleep. Don't be ashamed of using a sleep aid with medical supervision, if needed, but always talk to your doctor before doing so.

Woman with ADHD sleeping peacefully
10 of 10

Give Yourself a Bedtime

Think of sleep as a non-negotiable benefit to your health. Commit to going to bed at a reasonable hour. Start by gradually getting to bed earlier and earlier in 20-minute intervals. If you normally go to bed at 1:00 a.m., try going to bed at 12:40 a.m. Then work your way backward until you've hit your bedtime goal. If you know you can't hit your bedtime goal every night, at least two or three nights a week is better than nothing.

[Oh, I See You’re Awake, Too]

Leave a Reply