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Sleep Issues for People with ADHD

by | Dec 21, 2018 | Insomnia, Sleep Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – ADHD – is a brain medical disorder that results in hyperactivity and/or impulsivity, and difficulty or trouble focusing or staying on task. ADHD most often is associated with children, however, many adults have ADHD. A difference between adults with ADHD and child with ADHD often comes in the form of knowing how to manage the symptoms. For example a child may find it difficult to sit for hours in school; an adult may have over time learned to adapt their ADHD to their advantage in career, hobbies, or social situations.

However, while adults may have learned to manage their symptoms, multiple studies have shown that both children and adults with ADHD are more likely to experience sleep issues than those who do not have the condition. Adults with ADHD experience sleep problems just as often as children with ADHD do, but sleep deprivation seems to cause different symptoms in adults than in children. Here is some more on why people with ADHD of any age seem to suffer from sleep issues.

Can ADHD Actually Cause Sleep Issues?

Scientists suggest that the alterations in neurological pathways that occur with ADHD may affect sleep and wake patterns and vice versa. In addition, the multiple changes in mental and physical functioning that ADHD causes may also alter sleep patterns. For example, anxiety and mood changes are associated with ADHD, and both of these symptoms can affect the ability to fall and stay asleep. In untreated adults with ADHD, the havoc that the disorder can cause in personal and professional relationships may increase the occurrence of depression, and it is well documented that depression alters sleep habits.

Finally, people with ADHD have a higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse than the general population, and substance abuse is linked with altered sleep patterns, too.

Types of Sleep Disorders With ADHD

There are certain types of sleep disorders that are common in people with ADHD:

  • Sleep disordered breathing describes a group of sleep conditions associated with breathing issues. One of the most common is central sleep apnea caused by changes in the neurologic pathway that tell people when to breathe.
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders result when day / night sleep patterns are altered. Examples include delayed sleep disorder in which individuals go to sleep after 2am and then get up much later than normal wake times. These disorders can cause a host of problems that interfere with daily functioning and moods.
  • Restless legs syndrome causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs when people are resting. It can be very disturbing and interrupt normal sleep cycles, and is common in people with ADHD.


Children may become aggressive and uncharacteristically moody when they are sleep deprived, in contrast to adults, who typically become lethargic. In fact, some of the symptoms in sleep deprived children mimic those of ADHD, which can complicate diagnoses. For these reasons, it can be difficult to tell which issues are causing sleep disturbances in people with ADHD, as they all can lead to interrupted or difficult sleep. Even the medications used to treat ADHD may cause sleep disturbance as a side effect of treatment.

Likewise, an adult with ADHD may find their most fruitful period is at night, often after work when they start to become engaged in activities they enjoy. For that reason, sleep may be postponed or avoided, resulting in exhaustion adding to an already lack of general focus; this may not always be a symptom of ADHD but rather a hectic lifestyle.

Proper Diagnoses and Treatment

ADHD and sleep disorders seem to share some links and both health issues require professional treatment to avoid complications. If you have ADHD and are finding it hard to sleep, or if you aren’t sure why you are suffering from sleep disturbances and you think it may be ADHD related, seek out the advice of an expert.

Dr. Jeannine Louise Gingras is an expert in the field of sleep disorders. She and her expert team of health care professionals can help you get to the bottom of what is causing your symptoms. Call today to find out more about ADHD and sleep issues, or to make an appointment for a consultation at (704) 944-0562.