The relationship between ADHD and sleep is intricate and can affect one’s health and overall quality of life. Sleep problems, such as insomnia, breathing difficulties, waking at night, etc., are common in individuals with ADHD and arise in about 25-50% of people with ADHD  . This article explores how an individual can deal with Sleep issues with ADHD.
What are ADHD and sleep issues?
In individuals diagnosed with ADHD, sleep issues generally appear for twelve years. These disturbances are common and predict poor outcomes for the child and the family .
Many children and adults with ADHD find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up after sleep . They can commonly experience one or more of the following    :
- Delayed sleep
- Inability to shut the mind off at night
- Breathing problems while sleeping
- Short sleep time
- Waking up in the middle of the night
- Anxiety around bedtime
- Difficulty waking up once they finally fall asleep
- Daytime sleepiness and tiredness upon waking up
Research has shown that many individuals with ADHD suffer from some sleep disorder . Some commonly associated sleep disorders are:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Sleep Disordered Breathing
- Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder
Sleep problems can have serious negative consequences for any person. For instance, sleep issues can lead to increased hyperactivity, irritability, aggressiveness, impulsivity, difficulties in academics, mood, and cognitive functioning . Thus, in ADHD, when sleep issues are also present, they can exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD, interfere with the work of medication for the treatment of ADHD, have adverse physical health outcomes, and further interfere with the mood, attention, and behavior of the person  .
What are the causes of sleep issues in individuals having ADHD?
It is widely recognized that both ADHD and sleep issues are closely related, and symptoms of ADHD and sleep deprivation often mimic each other . Despite the overlap, the cause and mechanism are not yet clear. In other words, whether sleep issues are a part of ADHD, are caused by it, share a common cause, or are co-morbid has not yet been answered clearly.
Nonetheless, many researchers have attempted to understand both conditions’ relation and causes. Following are some connections between the two:
- Role of ADHD symptoms: individuals with ADHD have trouble understanding time or schedule, are easily distracted, and find it tough to stop their thoughts . Further, problems with impulsivity control may lead to delays in falling asleep .
- Role of neurotransmitters and other biochemicals: Some researchers have postulated that some sleep disorders and ADHD may be correlated because of the action of dopamine, whereas others have suspected iron deficiencies as the underlying factor .
- Role of Circadian Rhythm: has also been implicated in ADHD and sleep disorders. Individuals with ADHD have changes in mechanisms responsible for a person’s circadian rhythm, and that may contribute to sleep issues .
- Role of Other comorbid disorders: Comorbidities like depression and anxiety are common in ADHD, and mood disorders and sleep disturbances are strongly linked. It could be that these comorbidities contribute to sleep issues .
- Role of Medications: Stimulants used to treat ADHD may cause sleeplessness . Some studies have found that medicines impact sleep, but this cause is not absolute, as sleep issues also occur in individuals who are not on medications .
Irrespective of the causes, sleep issues in people with ADHD have adverse consequences. It becomes necessary, therefore, to learn how to manage these issues.
How to Deal With ADHD And Sleep Issues
An individual with ADHD can take several steps to manage their sleep issues. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to those with sleep difficulties. However, many sleep issues can be addressed with a consistent routine and effective sleep hygiene. Some tips for managing sleep issues are as follows  :
- Develop a consistent bedtime. Going to bed and waking up at a given time simultaneously can help develop a habit.
- Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Relaxation activities can be helpful in this regard. Other suggestions could be taking a warm bath, reading, spending time with pets, and spending time in a darker room.
- Avoid screen time before bed and ensure the bedroom is not used for other activities like play or study.
- An excellent dark bedroom that is quiet can also help with sleeping. White noise machines could also be helpful.
- Avoiding naps closer to bedtime and avoiding activities that lead to hyper-focusing in the evening can be helpful.
- If stimulants have been interfering with sleep, take them as early as possible so that their effect wears off until night.
- Avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol before bed.
- A reward system can also be developed, especially for children. Thus, an individual is rewarded every time their sleep routine is followed.
If the sleep issues persist, help can be sought from a psychiatrist for medication and from a psychologist to learn behavioral techniques to promote sleep and build this habit.
Yoga and Meditation for ADHD and Sleep Issues
There is a scarcity of research on the relationship between yoga or meditation, ADHD, and sleep disorders. Nonetheless, yoga and meditation have been found to positively impact ADHD and sleep issues when studied separately. Thus, these strategies could help individuals struggling with both.
Interventions that include Yoga and meditation for treating ADHD in children have found a positive effect on performance and symptoms in just six weeks of intervention . In one research trying to determine the impact of Sahaj yoga meditation on ADHD, Harrison and his colleagues found that Sahaj Yoga Meditation led to positive changes in the behavior and life of children with ADHD. Children reported experiencing various benefits at home, which included improved sleep patterns and reduced anxiety .
Interventions like yoga and Ayurveda have also been effective in improving sleep quality. For instance, in one study, yoga and Ayurveda helped participants sleep earlier, sleep for longer and feel more rested . Since many individuals with ADHD find these areas problematic when trying to sleep, yoga can help them.
Additionally, Yoga is also beneficial for individuals experiencing depression . Since mood disorders like depression and anxiety are commonly comorbid in ADHD and sleep issues are also closely related to depression, individuals can experience improved symptoms of sleep issues when practicing yoga.
Thus, while the evidence for the effectiveness of yoga or meditation on sleep issues related to ADHD is low, it can be helpful to incorporate these in the daily schedule, for they help improve sleep quality and ADHD symptoms in general.
ADHD and Sleep issues have an intricate relationship. Sleep issues are common in individuals with ADHD and can lead to them experiencing several adverse outcomes and low quality of life. Nonetheless, these issues can be managed by developing adequate sleep hygiene, having an effective routine, and making lifestyle changes, including adding yoga and meditation to the daily schedule.
Looking for more help, explore our programs on Meditation, Mindfulness, ADHD and Sleep Wellness. You can also connect with our UWC wellness and mental health experts. At United We Care, our team of wellness and mental health experts can guide you with the best methods for well-being.
- S. Yoon, U. Jain, and C. Shapiro, “Sleep in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adults: Past, present, and future,” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 371–388, 2012.
- D. Wajszilber, J. A. Santisteban, and R. Gruber, “Sleep disorders in patients with ADHD: Impact and management challenges,” Nature and Science of Sleep, vol. Volume 10, pp. 453–480, 2018.
- M. D. William Dodson, “ADHD and sleep problems: This is why you’re always tired,” ADDitude, 21-Jan-2023. [Online]. Available here: . [Accessed: 15-Apr-2023].
- V. Sung, H. Hiscock, E. Sciberras, and D. Efron, “Sleep problems in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, vol. 162, no. 4, p. 336, 2008.
- “ADHD and sleep problems: How are they related?” Sleep Foundation, 17-Mar-2023. [Online]. Available here: . [Accessed: 15-Apr-2023].
- “Ways ADHD can cause insomnia & sleep problems (and how to fix it),” WebMD. [Online]. Available here: [Accessed: 15-Apr-2023].
- S. Mehta, V. Mehta, S. Mehta, D. Shah, A. Motiwala, J. Vardhan, N. Mehta, and D. Mehta, “Multimodal Behavior Program for ADHD incorporating yoga and implemented by High School Volunteers: A pilot study,” ISRN Pediatrics, vol. 2011, pp. 1–5, 2011.
- L. J. Harrison, R. Manocha, and K. Rubia, “Sahaja Yoga meditation as a family treatment program for children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder,” Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 479–497, 2004.
- N. K. Manjunath and S. Telles, “Influence of Yoga & Ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatric population,” Indian J Med Res 121, pp. 638–690, May 2005.
- H. Cramer, R. Lauche, J. Langhorst, and G. Dobos, “Yoga for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Depression and Anxiety, vol. 30, no. 11, pp. 1068–1083, 2013.