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Sleep Problems Associated with ADHD


Updated February 15, 2010

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Sleep Problems Associated with ADHD

Individuals with ADHD often experience problems with sleep and for many these issues have been present since infancy.

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Bedtime can turn into “battle time” when you have a child who has difficulty falling asleep. Exhausted yourself at the end of the day, you may find that you are beginning to dread the nighttime routine. Unfortunately, people with ADHD do often experience chronic problems with sleep and for many these issues have been present since infancy.

Getting to Sleep

Bedtime routines are very important, but even in those families where parents have worked to create predictable and consistent bedtime routines there can still be problems with sleep. And the sleep disturbances don’t discriminate between kids and adults. Chronic sleep problems can affect both children and adults with ADHD.

Some teens and adults with ADHD report that they feel more alert and more energized in the evening hours. As a result, they can easily find themselves engaging in activities that keep them up later and later at night. The Internet, video games, television, reading, etc - it can be hard to stop and go to sleep once you get started on these distracting, stimulating activities. Yet even for those who have developed relaxing, “sleep-friendly” routines at night, the internal restlessness that often accompanies ADHD can make settling down and getting to sleep tough.

Unstable Sleep at Night

It is not unusual for individuals with ADHD to have problems with frequent night time waking in addition to the difficulty with sleep onset. The awakenings combined with the difficulty in falling back to sleep often results in less quality sleep at night. To top it off, inadequate sleep can significantly worsen symptoms of ADHD during the day.

Difficulty Waking Up in the Morning

Unfortunately, it is not just the nighttime sleep that can be disrupted. Many people with ADHD also experience problems in awakening in the morning. If you are in charge of waking up someone who has difficulty awakening from sleep in the morning, you may find that you are involved in morning battles that are just as exhausting as the bedtime ones! The hustle and bustle of the morning time, getting ready for school or work, and trying to get out the door on time is hard enough for most families. Add in a child or an adult who is sleepy and resistant to getting out of bed in the morning and your stress multiplies. Of course, if you are the adult with ADHD who struggles to awaken in the morning, you may be finding that chronic lateness is an issue, as well.

Daytime Sleepiness

Individuals with ADHD also frequently experience difficulty maintaining adequate alertness during the day - in other words, they may feel drowsy during the day especially when they are involved in an activity that is tedious or boring. Having to sit still during a particularly dull class at school or business meeting at work can be torture for a person with ADHD as they struggle to try to maintain alertness and focus. This appears to be particularly problematic for those with the predominately inattentive type of ADHD and it can occur even when the person has gotten adequate sleep. Physical movement and frequent breaks are very helpful in raising a person’s energy level and alertness and in reducing these feelings of drowsiness.

Dealing With Sleep Problems

There are strategies to help you address sleep issues. You can also see sleep tips from fellow About.com readers


Thomas E. Brown and William J. McMullen, Jr. “Attention Deficit Disorders and Sleep/Arousal Disturbances” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2001) Volume 931, pp. 271-28.6.

Russell A. Barkley. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment. The Guilford Press. 2006.

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