Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy How Can ADHD Hinder Sleep? A Sleep Psychologist Weighs in

How Can ADHD Hinder Sleep? A Sleep Psychologist Weighs in

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It’s estimated that around 50% of the 366 million of those with ADHD suffer from sleep problems, meaning up to 183 million of those could be affected. There are multiple ways in which it can affect sleep according to sleep psychologist, Dr Katherine Hall:

Almost half of all people with ADHD suffer from insomnia

Insomnia can be commonly associated with ADHD as attempting to sleep provides the perfect opportunity to think about different tasks and ruminate over thoughts. This can lead to daytime drowsiness and an inability to function as well as you would like in your work and personal life. This could be why Narcolepsy is present in around 30% of those with ADHD, where people tend to fall asleep quite suddenly during the day and sleep worse at night.

Adults with ADHD are more likely to have restless leg syndrome 

Further studies have shown a strong co-occurrence between people with ADHD and restless leg syndrome (RLS). If RLS happens throughout the night, it can lead to significant sleep deprivation, which can have further health implications. The effects of poor sleep can be seen on your skin and eyes and even make you more susceptible to illness. Constant sleep deprivation can affect your immune system, allowing things such as the common cold to creep in.

A higher intake of caffeine can cause disrupted sleep for those with ADHD

Studies have shown that people with ADHD are more likely to consume more caffeinated beverages than those without ADHD. And, while there is research that shows caffeine can help with concentration for ADHD, it’s important to err on the side of caution.

Pairing large amounts of caffeine with amphetamines – a form of stimulant medication that is used to treat ADHD – can also lead to an increase in side effects, which can include anxiety and sleeping difficulties. 

Top 8 tips to help your sleep this ADHD awareness month

To help get better rest, the sleep experts at Happy Beds have provided their top 8 tips. You can find the advice in further detail here. 

  1. Use a weighted blanket to manage your symptoms. Weighted blankets have been used to help people with anxiety and insomnia, as they can significantly decrease insomnia symptoms and improve people’s ability to sleep.
  2. Reading for just six minutes can calm stress levels by 68%. You only need to read for six minutes to experience a reduction in stress levels, and the average reading speed for one page is one minute, meaning you only need to read six pages before sleep.
  3. Switch to red-toned lightbulbs in your bedroom. Most night lights or bedroom lamps use light that is white, blue or green based. These colours are on a similar wavelength to natural daylight and, therefore, negatively impact your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock) as your body thinks it is daylight.  But did you know that red bulbs are the one type of light that doesn’t affect the body’s melatonin levels? If you can, switch to this colour, particularly as it’s reported that people with ADHD can have a disrupted circadian rhythm.
  4. Take movement breaks throughout the day. Keeping yourself busy throughout the day is essential. If you’re feeling restless or suddenly have the urge to get up and be active – do it! Regular movement breaks are a great way to let off some steam and get the blood pumping.
  5. Try meditation for just 13 minutes. review of 13 studies found that meditation and other mindfulness activities improved ADHD symptoms 100% of the time, so consistent meditation for 13 minutes each week can help you see results.
  6. Rub your wrist for 2–3 minutes. Feel for the hollow space on the right side of your right wrist (where your hand connects), and apply gentle pressure for two to three minutes in circular motions. Then, repeat this on your other wrist and so on. This pressure point can help you fall asleep as it is said to help quieten the mind, which is particularly useful if you struggle to stop your mind from wandering.
  7. Stick to a sleep schedule. Maintaining a good sleeping pattern is essential for everyone, as going to bed at the same time every night ensures our circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle) works correctly, so it’s crucial to try and keep our routine as consistent as possible.
  8. Say goodbye to your electronics. Any distractions in your bedroom can lead to distractions and an inability to fall asleep. Place your phone and any other devices that can light up in the night into a drawer. Or better yet, put them in another room so you are not tempted to ‘doom scroll’ during the night.

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