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Sleep and Adult ADHD

By Mary Jo DiLonardo
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD

Everyone wants to get a good night's sleep. But when you have ADHD, it can be a challenge.

Sleep problems often go hand in hand with ADHD. And when you don't sleep well, you can have more trouble with your focus.

What’s Causing Your Sleep Problems?

First, work with your doctor to find and treat any problems outside of your ADHD that may be behind your sleep troubles. He or she will want to talk to you and rule out conditions like unhealthy sleep habits, sleep apnea, insomnia, or snoring.

Sometimes, sleep problems can be due to your ADHD symptoms. People with ADHD often complain that their minds are overactive and just churn when they go to sleep.

"They have difficulty turning off and going to bed,” says Lenard Adler, MD, professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center.

You may know that you should go to sleep, but you want to read one more chapter in your book, or watch one more TV show. Before you know it, you're up hours past your bedtime.

"These are symptoms of self-management and self-control," says J. Russell Ramsay, PhD, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania Adult ADHD Treatment & Research Program. "They think, 'I know exactly what I need to do, but I have a hard time doing it.'"

Sleep Better

To help you sleep better, practice these good sleep habits:

  • Don't have caffeine after lunch.
  • Turn off all bright screens (computer, TV, tablets, phones) an hour before bed. Bright screens trick your eyes into thinking it's daytime.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Set a calm bedtime routine. Read, take a bath, or stretch to wind down.
  • Try meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or listening to music to help you relax.

Does Your Medication Play a Role?

If you still can't shut off your mind at night, talk to your doctor to see if your ADHD medication needs adjusting. It can interfere with sleep. It also may help to take your medication earlier or later in the day.

"Your doctor can change the timing of dose or give you a nonstimulant option or longer-acting medications that if taken early enough in the day, they'll wear off," Ramsay says.

By working with your doctor, you can decide what is best for you.

Reviewed on June 17, 2015

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