Could ADHD Be A Sleep Problem? - JUST BREATHE DDS

What exactly is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or (ADHD)? What do we need to be aware of as parents of a child or children suffering from the symptoms? ADHD is a group of behavioral symptoms that include hyperactivity, mood swings, inattentiveness, and impulsiveness. Generally, when a child starts school or another significant change happens, symptoms of ADHD tend to get noticed. Many children are often diagnosed with ADHD between the ages of 6 to 12 years old. ADHD is also being recognized more in adults as it can affect someone throughout their entire life. ADHD is also known to be highly inheritable and research is now showing how closely ADHD symptoms are related to sleep deprivation.

ADHD And Sleep Disorders-Are They Linked?

Scientists at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology have done extensive research that shows people with ADHD also tend to have sleep problems. Approximately 75 percent of both children and adults diagnosed with ADHD also suffer from sleep problems. Until recently, these diagnoses have been identified as separate issues. A new theory has been proposed by scientists stating much of ADHD may in fact be a direct problem associated with irregular circadian sleep. Based on the existing evidence and the association between the two, both ADHD and circadian sleep problems are prevalent in the majority of patients they have studied.

Professor Sandra Kooij from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology stated “We believe this because the day and night rhythm is disturbed, the timing of several physical processes is disturbed, not only of sleep, but also of temperature, movement patterns, the timing of meals, and so on. She also commented, “If you review the evidence, it looks more and more like ADHD and sleeplessness are 2 sides of the same physiological and mental coin.” Below are some highlights from Professor Kooij’s ADHD research:

Could ADHD Be A Sleep Problem?

  • In 75% of ADHD patients, the physiological sleep phase is delayed by 1.5 hours (people show the physiological signs of sleep, such as changes in sleep-related movement and levels of the sleep hormone melatonin in this phase).
  • Core body temperature changes associated with sleep are also delayed (reflecting melatonin changes).
  • Many sleep-related disorders are associated with ADHD, including restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and circadian rhythm disturbance (delayed sleep phase syndrome).
  • People with ADHD are more alert in the evening and this is the opposite of the general population.
  • Those with ADHD benefit from taking melatonin in the evening or using bright light therapy in the morning-which help reset the circadian rhythm.
  • Recent work has shown that around 70% of adult ADHD sufferers show an oversensitivity of the eyes to light, leading many to wear sunglasses for long periods during the day — which may reinforce the problems associated with a ‘circadian shift’.
  • Chronic late sleep leads to a chronic sleep debt- it is associated with diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. By resetting the sleep rhythm, these negative health consequences may be in part preventable. 

Professor Kooij also commented: “We are working to confirm this physical-mental relationship by finding biomarkers, such as Vitamin D levels, blood glucose, cortisol levels, 24-hour blood pressure, heart rate variability, and so on. If the connection is confirmed, it raises the intriguing question: does ADHD cause sleeplessness, or does sleeplessness cause ADHD? If the latter, then we may be able to treat some ADHD by non-pharmacological methods, such as changing light or sleep patterns and prevent the negative impact of chronic sleep loss on health.”

Get Better Sleep With ADHD 

Common sleep disturbances associated with ADHD include difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep, and difficulty waking up. A sleep remedy usually involves some type of sleep strategy or “sleep hygiene.” Sleep hygiene includes both environmental factors and habits, and it can help increase better-quality sleep and health. Sleep strategies tend to be very individualized. Some people need white noise, such as a fan or radio, to mask disturbances to sleep. While others may need complete silence. Others may require a snack before bed, while some can’t eat anything before bedtime. However, there are a few general rules to follow for better sleep:

    • Have a set bedtime & routine. Find a routine that helps you or your child relax before bed, which helps the body realize it’s time for bed and it will be easier to fall asleep when you want. A bedtime routine could possibly consist of a shower or bath, then reading a book or listening to music. Make sure bedtime is at the same time every night and get in bed to go to sleep. Once in bed, refrain from watching tv, using electronics, or doing things that stimulate the mind. This will help you or your child have better success in getting to sleep.
    • Avoid caffeine late at night. Caffeine can cause someone with ADHD to be more alert and excitable, making it difficult to fall asleep. Caffeine is also a diuretic and can cause disruptions to sleep with the need to use the bathroom throughout the night. Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid drinking any liquids close to bedtime
    • If possible, avoid taking naps during the day. If you are going to take a nap, keep them short-aim to nap for only 10 to 20 minutes. Also, try napping earlier in the afternoon, since taking naps after 3 p.m. can interfere with nighttime sleep. 

Sleep Better Today-Rely On A Sleep Clinic In Hayden, ID

There are significant amounts of research that are leaning toward ADHD and sleep problems being related. If you want to get to the core of a sleep problem or perhaps you want to find out if a sleep treatment will help you or someone with ADHD symptoms, give Just Breathe DDS a call today at (208) 500-3030. When everything you’ve tried has failed, we have sleep solutions that can help with your sleep problem. We believe in giving people the gift of better sleep and a better life!


ADHD, Circadian Rhythm, Sleep & Health Is ADHD a circadian rhythm disorder? ADHD Foundation, Liverpool, Nov 8, 2018 J.J. Sandra Kooij, MD PhD