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?

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Comments

  1. Lycinda says:

    I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 11. My brother and I went to a pyc. regularly my brother was give meds. but they thought that my case was to minor to require meds, I was not really hyperactive. during school I had to be constantly taking notes in order to stay awake. I would never use these notes, but they served there purpose. to take tests my mom was able to get an IEP for me because of my ADHD so I took my tests in a solitude environment. I don’t think that it helped the way they thought, I couldn’t stay awake, but at least there was a printer in the room that always seamed to be printing something, this would jolt me every time it went off. and also I was not timed and I did not feel like I was holding up the class because I was being slow/distracted. through college I even more strongly noticed this problem, I would be constantly be spacing out or falling asleep. and I have spaced a few times while driving, Now I make sure that I am keeping my brain busy by singing to the radio or talking to myself, or even doing math tables or problems in my head. the thing is to keep my brain synapses firing. oh another thing that I do is I learned a bit of sign language so while I am doing something part of my brain is thinking about translating into sign, this helps when I am somewhere I want to be quiet.

  2. Richard Peter says:

    My daytime fatigue began when I hit puberty and my daughter experienced the same problem at the same point in her life. Has anyone had a similar experience or is it just a coincidence? Back then I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD so I didn’t think of it. I just thought it was some kind of hormone problem.

  3. Richard Peter says:

    Hello Jacqueline,

    About 15 years ago I was diagnosed with Hypersomnolence. It’s a sleeping disorder like narcolepsy with no known cause. The treatment is usualy in the form of a stimulant or narcolepsy meds. Nothing seemed to work for me. When I was diagnosed with ADHD last year my sleep specialist wasn’t surprised. He said that over 30% of his patients have it. He was surprised that the stimulants didn’t help my ADHD though. He’s still helping me with that.

    Regards

    Richard
    AKA That Guy with ADHD

  4. Alison says:

    If you are having problems with the drugs, or which to use, it might be a good idea to see a neuropsychopharmacologist instead of another type of doctor. The drug end of the business is their specialty, and they already know about the ADD/ADHD so it’s a win-win. To tweak your drugs and make them work for you, try this suggestion. Not all MD’s are good at this. Ditto for psychiatrists.

  5. Judy VanValkenberg says:

    I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was 42 but have always had more daytime sleepiness than others. When I was 30 after I had my son the sleepiness got really bad and after doing a sleep study I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy. I took Provigil for 4 years and it helped immensely. I had surgery where I was on clear liquids for a week. Didn’t take the Provigil because wanted to make sure I rested enough to recover well. Couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t sleepy. When I added milk products back to my diet the next week the sleepiness got worse again. I cut all dairy out of my diet and it was almost gone. I also get sleepy when I eat some other foods too. Certain carbs can definitely put me in a “food coma.” I think a little sleepiness during the day occasionally can be attributed to lack of ability to shut our ADHD minds off at night sometimes to get proper sleep. When it does happen now it is when I am doing something I don’t like or that is boring. Saw another sleep Dr recently and he said Narcolepsy does not go away so that I must have never really had it. I do best now when I get 9 hrs sleep. My secret weapon at work is my sit/stand desk. Whenever I get sleepy I just set my desk to the standing position and that helps me stay awake.

  6. Elana Halvorson says:

    My husband and daughter have ADHD and I’ve been playing with the idea of getting myself checked out but I keep stopping short because their symptoms are so bad, I keep thinking I’m overthinking it. I was a daydreamer in school. All my early report cards had teachers saying I just needed to stop. Teachers offering to tutor me at lunch or being put in a special maths class but being told I was bright. I have moments of clarity where I organise the house or my life and then I drop the ball again. Anyway there is hardly a day where I don’t take a daytime nap, especially if it involves reading something that I have to read that I don’t necessarily want to read or write. Add this information to the list of reasons I think I have it!

  7. Holly B says:

    Thanks for your article. I am 44 years old and I’ve had depression and anxiety most of my life. I was diagnosed about 8 years ago with inattentive ADHD and haven’t really found the right medication for me. Then about 6 years ago I was finally officially diagnosed with narcolepsy without cataplexy. There was about a week when I started a new medication for narcolepsy that not only kept me awake, but stopped the constant “channel-flipping” array of thoughts that consistently flow through my mind and cleared the foggy brain. I’ve never ever had that kind of mental clarity. It was amazing; unfortunately it only lasted about a week, then that effect faded. I still that that medicine and they’ve increased the dosage, but I’ve never been able to get that clarity back again. Due to this experience along with ADHD and narcolepsy both having similar symptoms, I’ve been trying to find a doctor that can treat both disorders. I don’t know who that would be…a neuropsychiatrist or something? My psychiatrist and psychologist that treated my ADHD said that my narcolepsy could actually be because of the inadequately treated ADHD, but then my sleep doctor (neurologist) said that my ADHD symptoms could actually be because of my inadequately treated narcolepsy. It’s like the “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” scenario. Any thoughts or advise on how to find help for someone with both disorders when none of the medications that I’ve used or am currently using work completely?

    • Lycinda says:

      any time you start a new medicine your going to have a this is the best thing ever day, and then it is going to never be quiet at that level, Its called beginners high, a few people will try to keep taking more thinking that there is something wrong but there isn’t really, I don’t know if this helps

  8. 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…. !

  9. 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!! 🙂

  10. 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.

    • Stephanie says:

      I’ve been diagnosed with adhd since I was seven, so 21 years ago. I’m on adderall 30mg 2x a day, wellbutrin 300mg at night (it makes me more sleepier during the day) and 200MG of trazadone. My sleep still sucks, waking up constantly, adderall doesn’t seem to help me function at all, because I’m so tired (my Dr said it wouldn’t work right if I’m really tired before taking it) don’t see a difference with wellbutrin. I hate being so sleepy during the day. ITs the worst.

      • Jennifer Poole says:

        I am surprised that you take 300mg of welbutrin at night. Wellbutrin has a stimulating effect. I took 150mg in the morning. If I took it too late, it kept me up. I only take 20mg of adderal now. I take a chewable sleep tablet that has melatonin, 5HTP and Suntheanine in it to sleep. This is the best combination for my body so far. If I were you, I would get a second opinion on your welbutrin dose. I admitedly know nothing about trazadone, but it sounds like your doctor has you on a lot of stuff. I see a naturopath that prescribes mine with supplements. I highly recommend that route.

      • Sal says:

        I use to take Wellbutrin at night as it made me so sleepy. It was not helping depression or irritablity so finally started Adderall. It helps with mood and daytime sleepiness which probably causes depression and irritability to be worse as they are better now. I do not sleep well never have and sleep meds don’t help and even make things worse. My daughter and I are both set up to see sleep medication specialist due to not sleeping at night and having terrible daytime sleepiness and difficultly concentrating and feeling irritable.

  11. 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.

      • Richard Peter says:

        I was diagnosed last year at 53. I’ve learned so much since then and feel better about my condition even though I have had no success at finding a medication that works for me.

  12. 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 .

      • Richard Peter says:

        Modafinil made it impossible for me to focus on anything. While I wasn’t as tired all I could do was sit at my desk and stare at the screen. 🙁

    • 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!!

  13. 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.

  14. Steve says:

    directed=distracted

  15. 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.

      • Melinda says:

        Ppl who have ADHD aren’t affected by caffeine like other ppl. It does the opposite. Just fyi 🙂

      • Lycinda says:

        to what Melinda said WOW I always thought I was weird because of my aversion to coffee, one day my friends got me to drink a cup and i almost collapsed, my friend had to drive me home, I couldn’t even keep my eyes open, haven’t drunk coffee since,

    • 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.

  16. 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,
    Elaine

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. 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
    Val

    • 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 🙂
      hugs
      J

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