If you’re having trouble sleeping or staying asleep, you are in good company. Many people find that their mind is ping-ponging back and forth between stimulating and often unimportant ideas, goals, desires, reflections, and fears at night. Like a storm of raging thoughts cascading over one’s conscious mind, the second you’re tucked in under the covers and the lights are off, the lights in your head all flash on.
If this describes you, you might be suffering from ADHD and insomnia.
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is the name given to a disorder which 5% of children and 2.5% of adults cope with. Interestingly, boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed. It is described symptomatically by the inability to maintain focus, sit still, and control impulses. This can have an all too real impact on the lives of both adults and children. Children, for example, must go to school, sit for hours at a time, and pay full and unwavering attention to their teacher. It’s a similar story with adults, who must work sometimes tedious jobs for eight hours every day, maintaining strict focus.
If these symptoms sound all too familiar, then your primary care physician will be able to diagnose ADHD through a questionnaire, but only if you fill it out honestly.
What is Insomnia?
The inability to sleep when one is supposed to and the interruption of sleep are telltale signs of insomnia. This can be incredibly disruptive to workplace productivity and overall energy levels. If lack of sleep is negatively affecting your life and your health, then you may be suffering from this common sleep disorder. Unfortunately, our addiction to technology such as smartphones has increased the prevalence of insomnia.
If you consistently have a problem falling or staying asleep, you may be suffering from a form of insomnia.
How do ADHD and Insomnia interact?
There are two ways these disorders can overlap.
First, if you are receiving medical treatment for your ADHD, there is a good chance you are taking either Methylphenidate (Ritalin) or Amphetamine (Adderall). These are both stimulants that work by essentially overclocking your brain in such a way that it has no choice but to focus. The problem is, when it comes time to fall asleep, your medication might not yet have worn off. Talk to your primary care physician to discuss alternative non-stimulant medications and other sleep-friendly treatment options.
The second way insomnia and ADHD can interact is through the nature of ADHD itself. Many doctors are moving away from the idea of ADHD being exactly an attention problem in favor of a more nuanced model. It could imply more hyperactivity in some, more inattention in others, and the underlying lack of impulse control in many. Understanding ADHD as a lowered impulse faculty could help explain the inability to ‘turn off’ one’s mind before bed. For example, a thought comes to your mind as you lay in bed. Instead of letting the thought go, you seize it on a whim and entertain it to the fullest extent, and then another comes along. This could go on for a while, prolonging the time you stay awake, all because of the impulse to seize a thought. This might be the case, and if you experience something similar, bring it up to your primary care physician to explore potential treatment strategies.
Whether you are suffering from one or both of these disorders, treatments are available. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the relationship between ADHD and insomnia today.