Do You Have ADHD And Daytime Sleepiness?

buddha-85673_128075 percent of adults with ADHD have problems with sleep, getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up are the most common issues. Another type of sleep problem is falling asleep during the daytime at unusual times. For example, in class, meetings or while driving. The people who experience this usually have inattentive ADHD.

This daytime sleepiness is interesting because it is triggered by the environment. If the environment is mentally stimulating and interesting, paying attention and staying awake is not a problem. However, if the setting is dull, then staying alert becomes impossible and the person falls asleep. It doesn’t matter how important the event is. VIPs could be at the meeting, or the class could be vital to getting a good grade, but if the content is boring, sleep takes over. However, if something exciting happens or if it’s possible to get up and move, then the sleepiness goes away.

Because physical movement stops the sleepiness, some people look to be hyperactive, but it really is a behavioural strategy they developed to stop themselves from falling asleep.

If the person had a disrupted nights’ sleep, then daytime sleepiness would be expected. But this group of people experience daytime sleepiness even after getting ample sleep at night time. An extreme form of struggling to stay alert is narcolepsy. It is possible to have ADHD and narcolepsy. However, the type of daytime sleepiness that these ADHDers have isn’t as severe as narcolepsy.

If you have an on-going problem staying awake during your day-to-day activities, here are some suggestions.

Rule out other options

1. Get checked out for sleep disorders, including Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome and Narcolepsy.
2. Get assessed for depression.

Treat your ADHD

3. If 1 and 2 comes back clear, then treating your ADHD is your next action step. Adults with ADHD and alertness problems find ADHD meds very helpful. Work closely with your prescribing doctor and find the therapeutic dose for you.
4. If you are taking ADHD meds, be sure that they are in full effect when you are driving in your car.

Make your environment stimulating

Here are a few examples

5. If you are doing a dull household task, use your timer to keep you moving as much as possible.

6. You might not be able to get out of a boring meeting, but you can liven it up for yourself by offering to take notes on the white board for everyone, or be one of the presenters.

7. Change activities frequently.

Do you ADHD and Daytime Sleepiness? What helps you?


  1. Thank you for writing about this, Jacqui! I had no idea daytime sleepiness was tied to ADHD. Ditto on 99% of these comments! No I know I don’t have another underlying problem…. !

  2. Dee says:

    Can you develope ADHD later in life? I’m 55. I think my incessant sleepiness started about 15 years ago. If I have to drive for more than 20 minutes or I’m reading for any length of time, my eyes get so heavy & I simply can’t stay awake. I once had a boss tell me that I don’t “actively ” listen. I’m just fighting so hard to stay engaged & not drift off.
    Thank you all for posting. I really think this is it.

    • I’ve never heard of developing it later in life; maybe you’ve had it all along and it just wasn’t that bad when you were younger…. or better yet, it could just be from getting older and you don’t have it at all. I take it you have checked out all the most common ADHD traits… disorganization, poor memory, procrastination, no motivation, inattentive most of the time…. if you don’t have any of these traits you are soooooo lucky!! 🙂

  3. Michael says:

    Starting on Adderall for my ADHD was one of the best things I did in my life. I still remember the first time I took it as soon as I filled my prescription. But the time I got home, I felt “normal” and was able to truly enjoy playing with my two little (at the time) kids without having to take a break as soon as they started squabbling! After being on it for about 10 years, I’m trying to wean myself off, but I feel sleepy and lethargic if I don’t take it.

  4. David Jones says:

    I am visiting my primary tomorrow to talk to him about testing me for ADHD. I have had all of the symptoms since childhood. He recently diagnosed me with type A diabetes so I have cut out most of my sugars and have been watching what I eat. However, I have been having extreme sleepiness issues particularly in meetings and pre-job briefing. Even though the big bosses are there I find it nearly impossible to stay awake. I have heard it is nearly impossible to get diagnosed with ADD at my age which is 42

    • Its never too late to get tested for ADHD David!

    • Thomas says:

      I was diagnosed at 45, David. The biggest problem I encountered was memory issues when talking to a doctor/therapist. I’d lived with inattentive ADHD for so long, I’d stopped thinking about many of the problems I suffered. I simply dealt with them, and moved on. Definitely bring a list with you for memory prompts if you are like me.

  5. F M says:

    Loved this article! I was just kicked out of a provider’s office of 2 yrs now and told to find a new one, because I told him when I am inattentive, I get tired and sometimes fall asleep. He told me that that nowhere in the DSM5 does sleepiness or tiredness defined in ADHD or in any research. He told me it was some kind of sleep issue. I responded that I had 2 medical clinics diagnosed me within 6 years with the same diagnosis and 2 sleep studies with same conclusion-no sleep disorders. The 2 clinics also concluded that it was inattentiveness causing it since that is when sleepiness occurs. So my current provider dr will not access records to verify. So this article helped me to not feel like I am the only one that goes thru this.

    • Riri says:

      Hi FM!
      Were you diagnosed with ADD in the end? Because I find myself in the same situation! A few months ago I was oriented by a stress management coach to consult a counselor because she suspected that I had ADD. Unfortunately, after answering the questionaires, as I was not affected as a child, the diagnosis was inconclusive. I was then redirected to a psychiatrist who said I was suffering from anxiety and depression and wanted to put me on ADs, but I have the strong feeling that it’s not that (I’ve got some depressive episodes in the past and I can tell that, right now, this is not the issue). The more I read about ADD, the more I recognize myself, but this particular article struck me: THE major problem I have had for now 15 years has been sleepiness when I am on the computer or at a boring class or working over either something that requires mental effort or some “troubleshooting” (eg: not finding the appropriate formula in excel). While writing my PhD thesis 2 years ago this was particularly painful as it therefore happened every single day and I ended up getting a sleep study: no disorder identified. I am highly doubtful that I’ve been depressed for 15 years, cause this happened independently of my mood and I do not have insomnia problems. With this in hand and having also read Jaquie’s article about waking up (which is also totally me since my teens), I think I’m also going to hand this article to my providers!

    • I’ve just been tested for narcolepsy, it’s came back it’s poor sleep and I’ve been diagnosed with adhd due to all my other issues. Modafinil has changed my life and most narcolepsy meds are adhd meds also .

    • Kristi M says:

      My husband just landed a great job. During his first day at new hire orientation he had to have a 1 on 1 with the HR director about his benefits (401K). He literally fell asleep right in her face in a 1 on 1 conversation! My poor 17-year-old son suffers from ADD (inattentive) as well. Falls asleep in class all the time. He just started taking adderall his senior year in HS and his grades went up from Ds and Fs to As and Bs. He still falls asleep on adderall, but much less frequently. I wish more people really understood this is physiological! They mean no disrespect and are both awesome, super-intelligent people! If 10 percent of all people suffer from ADD, shouldn’t it be mandatory to learn about this in school or something? And it is not a disorder or a disability; it is a different way of thinking. A beautiful, productive, creative way of thinking (with some major drawbacks!) I think I need to become an advocate. I have it bad myself!!

  6. Ty says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Having ADHD causes a lot of small problems for me, but those small problems add up to me feeling like I’m not good enough or that I’m a lazy person. My doctor just prescribed me Ritalin, so I’m hoping that will help, but it’s nice to find answers that disprove my negative assumptions about myself.

  7. Steve says:


  8. Steve says:

    I just got out of a work meeting with one of our biggest customers. Both CEO’s were there, all the regional VP’s and everyone important. I found myself fighting to stay awake after specifically going to bed early and took two OTC sleep aids and two 3mg melatonin pills to make sure I slept well! My sleep app even rated my sleep at 86% and showed most of my sleep to be deep sleep. The first 90 minutes of the meeting was a struggle but as soon as they got to discussing something that concerned my department and personal work the sleepiness went away completely. Now that I’m back at my desk I feel it again but since I’m at least actively working I’m able to stage it off… but I do get directed a lot pretty easily as well. Not sure if that’s directly related or if it’s a behavior to try and keep myself interested in things and to stage off sleep. I will definitely be talking to a doctor about this. Thanks so much for the info!!

    • Marcus says:

      Remember that the otc sleep meds and most certainly melatonin can give you bad tired hangovers. I cut my sugar intake significantly and that in and of itself has worked great for better sleep and more energy the next day.

    • Marcus says:

      I don’t think my last message went through…but remembering that the otc sleep meds and also the melatonin can cause pretty ugly tired hangovers that can last all day. I don’t use them anymore….but I have cut my sugar intake significantly which has resulted in much better sleep and a lot more energy during the day. Late night carbs should be avoided at all costs along with nighttime caffeine and alcohol consumption. Dehydration is another totally common cause of daytime sleepiness and fatigue so drink plenty of water even if it makes you have to go more….it’s worth it. One last thing, a protein drink and a 20-30 min power nap (even to just close your eyes) instead of a sit down lunch gives me energy all day and well into the evening. Good luck.

    • James Thompson says:

      Maybe sleep apnea…..I had myself tested in a sleep lab and I was diagnosed. It runs in our genes. My daughter has it and she is healthy weight and 11.

  9. Elaine says:

    Thank you so much for writing about this! I’ve struggled with this my entire life and was a hurdle during school because it prevented me from applying myself 100%. The same idea could be applied to my work environment especially during webinars or lectures. I can drink 3 cups of coffee and if I’m not stimulated then lights out for me.

    Thanks again,

  10. tdixon says:

    Hello Jacqueline,

    I want to thank you so much for all the work you put into your blog and the services that you offer.

    I just read your piece about daytime sleepiness in folks with ADHD. I wanted to share that I find that the lighting I’m exposed to greatly affects my sleepiness level. Was in college when I figured it out.

    I had a very small class – THREE students and the instructor, so we sat at one table – where I’d be wide awake before the class and wide awake after the class. But I’d fall asleep during the class. It was not boring at all. It was the fluorescent lights in the classroom.

    Over the years I noticed it happening in places of work. Luckily now most places where I have to spend time have a lot of natural light.

    Thanks again for the articles and the blog.

  11. Such an interesting article. Just like Kyra describes it my brain shuts down like a computer going in to sleeping mode whenever I’m under stimulated. Sitting still on lectures and in meetings makes me completely shut down. And I find it hard to get active again if, for example, the activity changes and we have to go in to a group discussion or similar.

    I never knew this could be related to adhd.

  12. Heather Hodge says:

    Yes thank you so much for this article! I was diagnosed with adult ADHD 4-5yrs ago and prescribed adderall which had been a lifesaver for both my inattention, lack of concentration, etc as well as EDS. I told my drs and nurses about my sleep issues but none of them seemed to want any details and I figured that my medication was prob what people were prescribed for EDS, so I didn’t see any reason in pushing the issue. Lately ive been struggling because I lost my Dr and my anxiety has prevented me from seeking help like I need. I did however see a psychiatrist for the first time yest after waiting almost 2mts on the appt. I was late but was relieved she still agreed to see me. She asked lots of questions and there wasn’t time for me to get in depth about what has really been going on with me. She also did not refill my medication. I fell asleep in the parking lot after my appt! I don’t go back for 5wks and I am not prepared to continue going on living like this! All three of my conditions, ADHD,EDS, and anxiety all work together keeping from being able to be productive, and that goes for not being productive as far as doing what I have to do to find a Dr who will take me seriously and realize I truly need my medication! Its so sad that it’s got to be a medication that people fake symptoms to get because I realize with a new Dr they don’t know me and can easily think I’m just some drug seeker!

  13. Kyra says:

    This article is great! I am 31 with inattentive ADHD and I have been off of stimulants for about a year. I was doing well in my career as a multifamily residential property manager (very busy, high energy) but last August I made a change to marketing at a non profit (quiet, very dark – they actually don’t turn the fluorescents on, repetitive) . Well, I now spend most of my day falling asleep for 5-45 minutes at a time. I never feel it coming on and I never feel sleepy. It’s like my brain just powers down all of a sudden. When I wake up, I just start where I left off. It’s embarrassing but I’m hoping that after reading this I can better explain what’s been going on to my psychologist. Thank you for this, at least I know I’m not just lazy, lol!

  14. Karen says:

    Oh my gosh, this is so me! I have ADHD and depression (begun by delayed post-partum and exacerbated by stress and family deaths). I was on Concerta, which helped somewhat (increased the time I could pay attention without fighting sleep in seminars from about 2-5 minutes to 5-15 minutes). My doctor took me off the Concerta when I started on depression meds (Zoloft and Wellbutrin). Now I’m falling asleep multiple times at my desk at work, and fighting to stay awake when driving by myself (I carpool, so luckily that isn’t too often). I suffered from this in University too, fighting sleep during lectures, and I always fall asleep in movie theatres.
    THANK YOU so much for writing this article – it helps me to see that I’m not the only one suffering like this.

  15. Great article Jacqui! I didn’t realise sleep patterns were connected to ADD. I find that reading books makes me fall asleep, it is as though my inner voice is reading me a bedtime story!

    ps it is 3.15am in the UK and I couldn’t get to sleep so got up to read your article 🙂

    x x x

    • Hi Val
      yes, sleeping can be a huge problem when you have ADHD. I always read before I go to sleep too. I had to laugh when you said you couldn’t sleep so you got up to read the article 🙂

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