Tips and Techniques

ADHD & Sleep: Strategies for a Better Night’s Rest

Uncover the intricate link between ADHD and sleep patterns. Learn effective strategies to improve sleep quality and manage symptoms for enhanced well-being.

Written by

Jacqui Walker

Published On:

Oct 19, 2023

Sleeping in the afternoon with ADHD
Sleeping in the afternoon with ADHD
Sleeping in the afternoon with ADHD

Many individuals with ADHD struggle to find peaceful sleep, often battling symptoms like insomnia and restlessness. Thankfully, there are effective strategies available for tackling these challenges and achieving a better night's rest.

By fine-tuning your bedtime routine or making small changes to your sleeping environment, you may see substantial improvements in both your quality of sleep and overall well-being.

In this article, we'll dive into some actionable ADHD sleep strategies designed to address common sleep disturbances associated with the condition. 

We'll guide you through understanding how ADHD influences your sleep patterns and provide practical tips on how you can improve them. You don't have to resign yourself to restless nights; let's explore together how you can reclaim control over your sleep.

Understanding the Relationship Between ADHD and Sleep

Have you ever considered how your ADHD could be impacting your sleep? Or perhaps you've wondered why, despite feeling worn out, you find it hard to drift off at night. 

It's not just coincidence; there's actually a complex relationship between ADHD and sleep that can make catching those forty winks a challenge.

In fact, studies reveal up to 75% of children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) struggle with symptoms of insomnia. 

That's significantly higher than the general population! But what causes this strong connection between ADHD and poor sleep?

Research points towards multiple factors. The intricate neurobiology of ADHD often means individuals have an irregular circadian rhythm – that’s your body’s internal clock that guides when you feel awake or sleepy. 

This 'body clock' is typically delayed in people with ADHD, causing them to naturally fall asleep later and wake up later too.

For instance, let's take an average person without ADHD: their natural bedtime may be around 10 p.m., waking up refreshed at 6 a.m. In contrast, someone with ADHD may not start to feel tired until after midnight or even later! 

And once they do manage to close their eyes, restless nights become common due to frequent awakenings leading to disruptive sleep patterns.

Moreover, other factors, such as certain medications used for managing ADHD symptoms, can also affect sleep quality by either causing hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleeping) or insomnia (the inability to fall asleep).

Here are some strategies that might help improve your sleep:

  • Establishing a regular bedtime routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help regulate your body’s internal clock.

  • Limiting exposure to screens before bed: The blue light emitted by screens on phones, computers, tablets, etc. has been found to interfere with our natural melatonin production, the hormone responsible for inducing sleep.

  • Consumption of caffeine: Caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided close to bedtime as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.

  • Regular exercise: Exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality. However, it's best not to exercise too close to bedtime, as this could potentially disrupt your sleep.

By understanding the relationship between ADHD and sleep, you're already taking a significant step towards better rest! Remember, everyone is unique; what works for one person might not work for another. 

It's all about finding strategies that suit you best and sticking with them. Don't be disheartened if immediate improvements aren’t seen; changes in sleep patterns can take time. Consistency is key!

How ADHD Impacts the Quality of Sleep

How ADHD Impacts the Quality of Sleep

A key factor is how ADHD disrupts the body's internal clock or circadian rhythm. This disruption can cause what's known as 'ADHD insomnia', where you struggle to fall asleep at night and have difficulty waking up in the morning.

Research into ADHD sleep patterns shows an intriguing connection between the two. For instance:

  • People with ADHD often experience delayed sleep phase syndrome, meaning they naturally fall asleep later and wake up later than others.

  • Night-time awakenings are more common among those with ADHD, leading to fragmented and less restorative sleep.

  • Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder are also more prevalent in individuals with ADHD.

Research into ADHD sleep patterns shows an intriguing connection between the two.

Now let's talk about how these disturbances can impact your life. The lack of quality sleep leads to daytime fatigue, which exacerbates symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity associated with ADHD. 

Additionally, poor sleep can lead to mood swings and lower your overall quality of life. But don't despair; there are effective strategies out there! 

You'll find numerous 'ADHD sleep strategies' designed specifically for tackling these issues head-on. These include lifestyle adjustments like maintaining a consistent bedtime routine or using techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

In essence, understanding how ADHD impacts your sleep is crucial for working towards better nights' rest. Awareness allows you to tailor specific strategies best suited for improving your unique situation, paving the way toward improved well-being.

Expert-Approved Techniques for Improving Sleep with ADHD

Living with ADHD can certainly make achieving a good night's sleep more difficult, but it's not an insurmountable challenge. Here are some expert-approved techniques to help you combat ADHD insomnia and enhance your sleep quality.

Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is an effective strategy for managing ADHD sleep issues. This means going to bed and waking up at the same times every day – yes, even on weekends. 

By doing so, you're helping your body establish a regular sleep-wake cycle, which could significantly improve your overall sleep quality.

Reduce Exposure to Screens

You might think that late-night screen time doesn’t affect your rest, but research tells us otherwise. The blue light emitted by devices like smartphones and computers can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. 

Therefore, reducing exposure to screens in the hours leading up to bedtime could be beneficial for individuals struggling with ADHD insomnia.

Physical Activity

Physical activity also plays an important role in improving sleep patterns. Regular exercise helps reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, common contributors to sleep disturbances among those living with ADHD. 

Whether it's a brisk walk after dinner or yoga before bed, any form of physical movement can contribute to better nights' rest.

Healthy Diet

A diet, too, has an impact on how well you sleep when dealing with ADHD. 

Cutting back on caffeine intake, especially closer to nighttime, may help mitigate restlessness during the nighttime hours; this includes caffeinated drinks like coffee and certain types of tea as well as chocolate.

Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing exercises or meditation have been known to help calm racing minds – something people living with ADHD often struggle with at bedtime. 

By incorporating these relaxation strategies into your nightly routine, you'll likely find falling asleep less challenging over time.

It may take some trial and error to find the right combination of techniques, but with persistence, a good night's sleep could be closer than you think.

Lifestyle Changes to Support Better Sleep for Adults with ADHD

If you're an adult living with ADHD, sleeping could be a common struggle. But don't worry; there are strategies that can help. It's all about making small lifestyle changes and adopting healthy habits to support better sleep.

Regulate your Sleep Schedule

Firstly, regulate your sleep schedule. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – yes, that includes weekends! Consistency is key here. Your body's internal clock loves routine, so stick to it as much as possible.

Create a Serene Sleep Environment

Next on your list should be creating a serene sleep environment. A cool, dark room can work wonders for your sleep quality. Also, consider investing in some earplugs or a white noise machine if you're easily disturbed by sounds during the night.

Physical Activity

As mentioned, physical activity is another crucial factor in achieving better sleep for adults with ADHD. Regular exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve both the quality and duration of your sleep. 

However, try not to exercise too close to bedtime, as it could have the opposite effect and make falling asleep more difficult.

Avoid Caffeine

On top of these strategies, consider paying attention to what you eat before bedtime, especially if it contains caffeine or high amounts of sugar, which are known triggers for ADHD and insomnia.

Mindfulness Meditation

Last but definitely not least is exploring relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation, which might just be the game-changer in improving your ADHD-related sleep problems.

Sleep Strategies for Children Struggling with ADHD and Insomnia

Sleep Strategies for Children Struggling with ADHD and Insomnia

Struggling with sleep is a common issue among children diagnosed with ADHD. It's frequently seen that they also suffer from insomnia, which tends to exacerbate their symptoms. However, there are effective sleep strategies you can adopt to help your child get a better night’s rest.

Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine

As discussed, establishing a consistent bedtime routine is one of the first steps you can take. This could involve reading a book together, having a warm bath, or other calming activities before bed. Consistency is key here; it helps set your child's internal clock and makes falling asleep easier.

Reduce Screen Time

Reducing screen time in the evenings is another strategy that works wonders for sleep improvement. 

The light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with melatonin production, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles. Consider setting device-free times before bed to help encourage better sleep hygiene.

Dietary Changes

Dietary changes might also be beneficial for children struggling with ADHD and insomnia. Certain food items, such as caffeine-containing beverages or sugary snacks close to bedtime, may disrupt sleep patterns. 

Try replacing these with healthier alternatives like herbal tea or fruits.

Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity has been proven to improve both ADHD symptoms and sleep quality in children as well. Exercise helps tire out the body physically, making it easier for your child to fall asleep at night.

Sleep-friendly Environment

In addition, consider creating an environment conducive to good sleep in your child’s bedroom. This might entail investing in blackout curtains, maintaining an appropriate room temperature, or using white noise machines if necessary.

Each child is unique, so what works best may vary from one individual to another, but by experimenting and adjusting these strategies over time, you're sure on your way towards helping your child achieve better nights of restful sleep despite dealing with ADHD and insomnia.

Common Sleep Disorders Associated with ADHD

Living with ADHD isn't just about managing hyperactivity or impulsivity; it's also about dealing with the sleep disorders that often accompany this condition. You may be wondering why you're experiencing sleep issues and how they relate to your ADHD.


Insomnia, for instance, is frequently associated with ADHD. It’s a condition characterised by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. 

The restless tossing and turning can leave you feeling exhausted in the morning, even after a full night's rest. Studies suggest that up to 50% of adults and children with ADHD struggle with insomnia at some point.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Another common disorder linked to ADHD is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). This neurological condition causes an irresistible urge to move your legs while trying to fall asleep. It's estimated that around 44% of people suffering from ADHD also have RLS.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, a potentially serious disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, has been found in approximately 25 to 30% of those diagnosed with ADHD. 

The interrupted breathing can lead to frequent waking in the middle of the night, causing daytime fatigue and further exacerbating symptoms of ADHD.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)

Let’s not forget Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), which affects your body's internal clock, making it hard for you to fall asleep at a regular bedtime and wake up feeling refreshed. Around one-third of teens living with ADHD suffer from DSPS.

Here are the stats represented in markdown table format:

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)

Understanding these links between sleep disorders and ADHD can empower you towards better management strategies for improving both your sleep and overall ADHD symptoms. Remember, a good night's rest isn't just desirable; it's an essential part of managing your ADHD effectively.

Wrapping Up: Embracing a Nightly Routine for Restful Sleep Despite ADHD

Creating an environment conducive to sleep is crucial for anyone battling ADHD insomnia. Dimming down lights at dusk, keeping gadgets away at least an hour before bedtime, and cultivating a peaceful sleeping area can make all the difference.

Remember that it isn't just about quantity—it’s also about quality. A few hours of deep restorative sleep can be far more beneficial than an erratic eight-hour slumber.

In addition, know when it's time to seek professional help. If implementing these tips doesn't bring relief from your symptoms within a few weeks, then it might be worth discussing other options, such as medication or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), with your doctor or therapist.

By embracing a consistent nightly routine filled with strategies tailored towards tackling ADHD-related insomnia head-on; by asking for help when needed; and by remembering that success doesn't always look like a straight line, you’re close to having a good night's sleep!