Everyone needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night to feel productive and well during the day. However, people with ADHD often have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Adults with ADHD rarely fall asleep easily, sleep soundly through the night, and then wake up feeling refreshed. ADHD’s mental and physical restlessness disturbs a person’s sleep patterns, and the ensuing exhaustion hurts your overall physical and mental health. ADHD and sleep are connected, and the good news is that you can help yourself enjoy a sound sleep.
Three Main ADHD Sleep Problems
1. Difficultly Falling Asleep with ADHD
About three-fourths of adults with ADHD report the inability to shut off their minds when they are trying to get to sleep at night. They may feel tired during the day but, as soon as their heads hit the pillow, the mind switches on. Their thoughts race and bounce, and sleep can seem far away.
2. Restless Sleep with ADHD
When people with ADHD finally fall asleep, their sleep is restless, and they toss and turn throughout the night. Any noise in the house can wake them up, and they can be so fitful that their partners may decide to sleep in another bed. With such a restless snooze, they can wake up as tired as when they went to bed.
3. Difficulty Waking Up with ADHD
Adults with ADHD may sleep through two or three alarms, as well as any attempts by family members to get them out of bed. ADHD sleepers can be irritable, or even combative, when roused before they’re ready to wake up.
Sleep Disorders Connected to ADHD
Sleep disorders are more than a bad night’s sleep. If you have one, it can steal your rest and make you more distracted and impulsive during the day. Some of the more common sleep disorders tied to ADHD include:
Circadian-rhythm sleep disorders. Your body makes changes throughout the day to adjust to the amount of light and darkness in a 24-hour period. Sometimes, your body may not be in tune with the cycle and mightn’t release hormones like melatonin at the right time. This can make it hard to fall asleep. Your body’s inner clock can also be thrown off by the artificial light from laptops, tablets, or phones. Because of this, it’s best to avoid them about an hour or so before you want to go to sleep.
Read more about circadian rhythm here.
Sleep apnoea. People with sleep apnoea will stop and start breathing throughout the night for brief moments. It can throw off your rest, and you can wake up feeling tired. About 25% of people with ADHD have sleep apnoea.1 If you snore loudly, mention this to your doctor as this can be a sign of sleep apnoea. You can read more about sleep apnoea here.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). RLS symptoms can include limb discomfort and a strong urge to move your legs while you sleep. About 44% of people with ADHD experience RLS.2 Read more about Restless Leg Syndrome here.
How You Can Help Yourself
You may be able to improve your sleep by following healthy habits and routines, such as:
- Avoid napping four hours before bedtime.
- Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol four hours before bedtime.
- Have a calming bedtime routine – read a book for an hour before going to sleep.
- Go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day – including weekends.
- Sleep in a comfortable bed in a dark and quiet room.
- Avoid looking at screens before going to sleep.
- Consider a weighted blanket. The extra weight offered by these blankets can create a sense of security, and they may help calm or comfort restless or stressed individuals. You can browse our selection of weighted blankets here – it’s recommended that you choose one that’s about 10% of your overall weight.
Although these are some ideas for helping yourself at home, the best way to help yourself get a good night’s sleep is to consult your doctor. Your doctor can discuss treatments that will work for you.