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Adderall and Sleepiness

Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on July 02, 2020

If you take Adderall to help manage your ADHD, you may have noticed a surprising side effect. You might feel really calm or sleepy. Or you may have low energy, also known as fatigue. It’s rare, but it happens. Here’s why, and how to handle it.

Why Sleepiness Can Happen With Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant that boosts your levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These are neurotransmitters in your brain that calm and relax you so you can focus better. They also affect sleep in different ways. That may be the reason the drug causes drowsiness in some but not others. In studies, 2% to 4% of kids who took the drug had low energy and sleepiness. For adults, it was 6%.

It might help to practice good sleep hygiene. That’s some steps you can take to help you snooze better. This may curb drowsiness. You should:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
  • Don’t eat heavy meals before bed.
  • Exercise.
  • Don’t watch TV or use your smartphone 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed.
  • Keep your room dark and quiet.

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

A more common cause of sleepiness related to Adderall is stopping the drug after you’ve used it for a long time or after you’ve been taking a high dose. Doing that suddenly instead of having a doctor slowly wean you off of it can make your sleepiness worse. This is known as an Adderall crash.

Adderall Alternatives

You should talk to your doctor if your sleepiness doesn’t get better after making a few lifestyle changes. It might help to change your dose. You could also try another ADHD drug, like Ritalin or Dexedrine. They might not affect you the same way. Other options include:

Strattera. It’s the only FDA-approved drug for ADHD that’s not a stimulant. It ups your norepinephrine levels. Possible side effects are:

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Antidepressants. Some, like tricyclics and bupropion, have been shown to help with ADHD. Experts think it’s because most work on the same neurotransmitters as Adderall.

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Possible side effects of tricyclics are:

Possible side effects of bupropion are:

Blood pressure medication. Studies have shown that some may ease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and aggression. But they don’t seem to help as much with attention. Also a downside: These might make you tired.

The doctor can help you figure out which medication works for you with the fewest side effects.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: “Highlights of Prescribing Information.”

Hazelden Betty Ford: “Adderall Addictions and Side Effects.”

Hormone Health Network: “What is Serotonin?” “Norepinephrine.”

Health Direct: “Dopamine.”

National Health Service (U.K.): “Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).”

Mayo Clinic: “Mayo Clinic Minute: Do you practice good sleep hygiene?”

Recovery First: “Adderall Withdrawal and Detox.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Nonstimulant Therapy (Strattera) & Other ADHD Drugs.”

Help Guide: “ADHD Medications.”

Dailymed: “ADDERALL XR -- dextroamphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine sulfate and amphetamine aspartate capsule, extended release.”

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