Understanding Insomnia, Sleep Issues, and ADHD


May 10, 2023 4 MIN READ


Understanding Insomnia, Sleep Issues, and ADHD

Do you or a loved one live with ADHD? If so, challenges with getting sufficient rest are probably a familiar issue.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) occurs in approximately 5% of children, predominantly boys, with 25% to 50% of cases experiencing sleep issues like insomnia and other secondary sleep conditions.

Experts consider the hyperactivity and impulsivity associated with this condition the likely factors making it difficult for patients to decompress and fall asleep at night.

Sleep and ADHD

Typically, individuals battling ADHD start experiencing sleep issues during puberty. Challenges like shorter sleep times, difficulty falling and staying asleep, and an increased risk of developing a sleep disorder are common. As this diagnosis continues into adulthood, these sleep issues also typically continue and often become worse.

However, the symptoms tend to vary with the different types of ADHD.

Usually, those suffering primarily inattentive symptoms have a later bedtime, while individuals presenting hyperactive-impulsive symptoms endure insomnia. And those displaying both hyperactive and inattentive ADHD bear the sleep challenges of each diagnosis.

Similar Symptoms

Many symptoms like daytime forgetfulness and lack of focus plaguing those with ADHD mimic the symptoms of sleep deprivation, making it difficult to determine the cause. The confusion can result in a misdiagnosis and may open the door to developing undetected sleep disorders.

Experts believe the sleep challenges facing those with this disorder may stem from the impaired arousal, alertness, and function of circuits in the brain.

Other Influences

Many patients find the calming effect of stimulant medications typically prescribed for ADHD helpful regarding sleep, but others experience the opposite.

Other conditions like depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and inadequate sleep hygiene may accompany this disorder and can substantially impact an individual’s sleep quality. People presenting a sleep disorder and ADHD frequently indicate more intense ADHD symptoms and are at more significant risk for a high BMI, anxiety, depression, and challenges with information processing.

Lack of quality sleep can lead to daytime fatigue and irritability, grumpiness, restlessness, and problems focusing at work or school for those with ADHD, like everyone else. But patients with ADHD typically endure higher percentages of some particular sleep disorders.

Sleep Disorders and ADHD

Identifying and addressing any underlying sleep disorders is crucial to achieving more restful sleep for patients with ADHD. Here are some of the most common and troubling examples.

Sleep Disordered Breathing

Impacting up to one-third of ADHD patients, SDB includes sleep apnea and snoring, among others.


Falling asleep without warning at any time throughout the day, people suffering from narcolepsy often find it difficult to sleep well at night. Adult patients are two times more likely to have experienced symptoms of ADHD in childhood.

Restless Legs Syndrome

RLS causes tingling sensations in the legs making falling asleep difficult. Other periodic limb movement disorders and RLS are present in nearly half of ADHD cases. Iron and dopamine deficiency are frequent issues with ADHD and are considered likely triggers of RLS.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

People with ADHD, especially adolescents, are more productive and awake in the evening. Their unusual schedule often hinders performance and their ability to meet commitments at work or school. Contributing factors for people with ADHD may be irregularities in their internal clock, a smaller pineal gland, and a slow release of melatonin which all play a role in circadian rhythm sleep disorders.

DSPS (Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder), a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, is common in people with ADHD. This condition is indicated by a delay of two hours or more in the sleep-wake cycle, which significantly impacts time-sensitive activities like school and work. With such difficulty falling asleep at night, excessive tiredness, insufficient alertness, and confusion often plague them the next day.

All of the issues arising from ADHD and the associated sleep disorders mean those suffering from this condition are often easily distracted and have difficulty stopping projects, dismissing interruptions, going to bed, or relaxing sufficiently to fall asleep once there.


The inability to achieve sufficient restorative sleep can significantly affect your physical and mental health. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder among the population, including those with this diagnosis.

Likewise, treatment is similar for each group. However, ADHD patients should be conscious of the possible effect on sleep from stimulant medication or antidepressants.


Although many people suffer from sleeplessness or sleep disorders, people who also deal with ADHD can have some particular challenges diagnosing and overcoming their sleep challenges.

Patients are more apt to experience depression and develop sleep disorders. But symptoms and issues can vary depending on the specific ADHD diagnosis.

Treating insomnia is essentially the same for people with this diagnosis as the general population. Awareness of the potential impact that stimulant or antidepressant medications have on sleep can be essential for people with it.

Final Thoughts

Successfully addressing your sleep challenges, like insomnia, can be life-changing in a very positive way, particularly for those with ADHD who are doubly challenged and stand to make even more significant t gains in managing the condition and their quality of life.

Sleep Science Academy’s extraordinary professional sleep coaches can guide you to a new life of better sleep by helping you recognize and understand your challenges and empowering you with the tools and skills to make these changes from now on.

We employ numerous methods and disciplines to help people address their sleep challenges and acquire the restorative rest they deserve and need.

In this article, you can learn more about Dynamic Sleep Recalibration (DSR) and how it can help you get more and better sleep.

Make those sleepless nights and hazy days a thing of the past by scheduling your free evaluation to take the first step towards more sleep and a better life.