ADHD and Insomnia: I'm Wide Awake
Last updated: August 2023
A match that was certainly not made in heaven - I, in fact, have no idea where it was made; I cannot imagine it being any place good. ADHD can trigger insomnia for a variety of reasons, many people I know who have ADHD also suffer from insomnia.
Hyperfocused and time blindness
This might be the one that affects my life the most. In my experience, hyper fixation is a single-track mind on one activity or interest for an extended period of time. When I say focus, it is a very intense focus, it can take over most of my day and thought patterns.
In turn, this means that it also takes over your sleep. The need to continue with whatever your interest is surpasses just about anything else. While this seems like a simple task, just switch off and go to sleep. This is not so simple for those of us who have ADHD.
Time blindness is something that comes hand in hand with a hyper fixation for me. If you think you are going to do just 2 hours before bed be assured that you will quadruple that before you have noticed.
Hyperactivity of the mind
In my experience as a woman living with ADHD, mine often presents itself as hyperactivity of the mind. If you do not know what that means, I can give you something that can help. The chaos of the mind, all the time. Intrusive thoughts, before one thought train is done there are 5 others falling into your mind. And it never stops - never.
The noise in your mind is constant like a shouty boardroom meeting with 3 different bands playing, and a child daycare thrown in for good measure. This is so hard to manage on a good day, not to mention when you are trying to go to sleep.
Getting my mind to still to actually fall asleep can be a near impossible task and easily leave me wide awake all night. The only thing that I have ever found calms my mind when it is racing is to start listening to either audiobooks or guided meditation for sleep. If it can keep the attention of the busy brain then it gives me a chance to fall asleep. This is a rare
Surprise, surprise - insomnia exacerbates my ADHD
When I am tired, my ADHD symptoms are exacerbated. My brain fog gets worse, my thoughts are faster and more chaotic. This creates an even bigger problem for the night coming - by that time I am so overwhelmed that it is impossible to get to sleep. I find that it is very important to get ahead. Once I get caught up in this cycle it is extremely hard to break it.
Some medications used to treat ADHD are stimulants and they can cause some issues with sleep. If this is something that you feel you are experiencing please chat with your health care provider as soon as possible. There are a few options out there that can make a big difference in managing the symptoms. There should be something to help you, and also not make your insomnia worse at the same time.
Managing ADHD and insomnia
It is important to check your sleep routine and make sure that things are nice and peaceful before bed. About 4 hours before bed you can cut your caffeine intake, along with looking at how much screen time you are having, and how soon before bed you are switching it off.
These small things could all add up and aid toward a healthier sleep pattern and hopefully make for better sleep one way or another.
What do you do at night when you can't sleep?