Is sleep affected by ADHD?

  • People with ADHD regularly experience difficulties with their sleep. There is a lot of overlap between ADHD and sleep disorder symptoms. Having sleep trouble can have a significant negative impact on someone’s life.
  • 80% of people with ADHD have trouble with their sleep. Many people find they do not get sleepy until late at night but because work or college starts in the morning, they have to wake up then too. This results in sleep debt (not getting enough sleep).
  • Typically, adults with ADHD sleep for about 5-6 hours. The optimal length of sleep for adults is 7-8 hour.
  • The consequences of not sleeping are sleepiness, impairment focus and memory, irritable sad mood and binge eating for energy.

What can I do about it?

Melatonin is a sleep hormone your body makes. It lets your body know that it's night time so you can relax and fall asleep easier. There are ways to boost the amount of natural melatonin you create.

  • Darkness/lack of light is a key factor in producing melatonin. Blue light from phones, laptops and TVs trick the body into thinking it's awake. Using your phone late at night can limit the amount of melatonin your brain creates. Consider ditching it in favour of a book or a screen-free activity. Decide on a time to stop using screens every night. Use an alarm or smartphone app to remind you to switch off your phone at the set time.
  • If you are going to the bath room at night, use minimal lighting so as not to wake up.
  • Have curtains that block out the light so it doesn't disturb your sleep.
  • Having a hot shower at night can help melatonin onset as well. You can also put on warm pyjamas and make sure your feet are warm.

Other tips for improving sleep hygiene, also known as sleeping habits:

  • Let your day be as bright as possible and your night be as dark as possible.
  • Wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • If napping, nap for less than 30 minutes.
  • Go outside for a walk in the morning to help wake up.
  • Don't skip breakfast - this can lead to binge-eating later in the day, which can give you a burst of energy but make you tired again

The HSE has more information on sleep and sleep hygiene here.