ADHD and Teeth Grinding, Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome

Sleeping difficulties are one of the comorbid conditions that Adults with ADHD can experience. Sleeping difficulties are one of the comorbid conditions that Adults with ADHD can experience. While Insomnia is the most well known sleeping difficulty, the other common ones are Teeth Grinding, Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome.

Having sleep problems is a double whammy when you have ADHD because lack of sleep results in ADHD symptoms, such as, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, distraction and disorganization. If you have or suspect you have a sleep disorder, it is important to treat it so that you can minimize its effects on your life and your ADHD.

Teeth Grinding or Bruxism (From the Greek word brygmós “gnashing of teeth”)

The short term effects of teeth grinding can include headaches, aching jaws, sore facial muscles, earaches and stiff or tight shoulders. While long-term effects can include: tooth sensitivity, worn or cracked teeth, infections or dental abscesses, pain and stiffness of the jaw. If you recognize yourself as a tooth grinder, visit your dentist who will fit your with a mouth guard.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)

There are 2 types of sleep Apnoea:


This is where during sleep the soft tissues and muscles of the throat relax so much they block air for 10 seconds or more and your breathing is interrupted.


This is where the air is reduced by 50% (or more) for 10 seconds or more while you sleep.

Problems breathing while you sleep mean you move from a deep sleep to a lighter sleep or wake up completely. Because everyone needs a certain amount of deep sleep per night, if you aren’t getting enough you will feel fatigued in the morning. As well as, short term problems, such as reduced attention there are long term problems such as heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Visit your
doctor ASAP. You will be prescribed a CPAP, which is a breathing machine that maintains your airway.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

This common condition results in an overpowering desire to move your legs. It might be accompanied by a crawling feeling on your legs. While the exact cause isn’t known, it’s thought to be due to low levels of dopamine, or an underlying health condition, such as, an iron deficiency. Visit your doctor and they will be able to assess you. Your treatment will depend on their findings.

Whatever your sleep problems, get them checked out ASAP. You will feel like a new person after a good nights sleep.


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  1. chris says:

    I have ADHD, RLS, sleep apnea, atypical narcolepsy (narcolepsy w/insomnia component), anxiety and depression. My sleep is awful. I wear a night guard. I go into REM in 8 minutes (normally takes 4 hours) and fall asleep within 10 seconds of closing my eyes. I feel awful and tired every day. Doctors can’t figure out how to solve the issue. I’m 42 and feeling like I’m 98. Yet, if you saw me, I’m the most healthy looking person. It’s beyond frustrating. I’m on medication for most of it and it hasn’t really done much. It’s all symptom management and not cure. Wouldn’t wish any of it on my worst enemy.

  2. Pam says:

    I have suffered with RLS for 9 years. Last May 2013 had horrible reaction to teeth cleaning that left me with extremely sensitive teeth. At that point when went back to dentist was told I had “crazing” fine cracks and was a clincher. Switched to sensodyne, added fluoride gel to be used in whitening trays that were made just for this nightly regiment and have a nightguard. It helped after 6 weeks but only lasted about 2 months. Then everything started up again. I gave up diet coke and only drink water that’s barely above room temperature. Gave up anything carbonated and cannot tell you when I had ice cream or anything cold to drink last. I drink one small cup of coffee in a.m. which is only caffeine I get and I NEED to function after batttling insomnia and RLS. Anyhow, have never heard of ADHD or ADD being connected to RLS or teeth grinding/clinching. But I struggle with anxiety so teeth clinching makes sense to me now. Wish I’d known I had the problem before my 50th bday last year. Anyhow, switched dentist and he says my teeth (only one filling which I had when I was 30) are in excellent shape and the fine lines/wear is minimal and common to someone my age. Trying mouthguard again and adding a fluoride paste treatment nightly. Boy do I miss something cold to drink especially in the hot summer. Also using magnesium and calcium for osteoporosis. Anyhow, will add omega and amino acids for RLS. Interested in anything you can recommend for repairing the sensitive teeth. Was told I still have dentin so who knows guess just overly sensitive nerves in my teeth now.

  3. Pam says:

    I have suffered from RLS since my early 40’s. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHS though. But was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and some mild/moderate depression just prior to the RLS (about 1 year). Of course, the med’s for the anxiety/depression/OCD had side effects of periodic limb movement. So who knows which came first, the chicken or the egg, i.e. med’s for anxiety/ocd/depression then caused the RLS. Then to add insult to injury, just prior to my 50th birdthday (post menopausal symptoms too night sweats, etc…) I had a teeth cleaning and experienced sever teeth sensitivity that has never gone away other than about 2 months. I wear a nightguard because was told I was a clincher (never before told that) but still have truoble with it use fluroride treatements, sensodynes, etc… Anyhow, feel like hell most days because of lack of sleep due to RLS and cannot drink anything other than water at room temperate for over a year now. And the depression from fatigue kicks in.

  4. Lou Hunley says:

    oh Wow! so now my teeth grinding and sleep apnea are related to ADHD too.

    I have severe teeth grinding problems. I had lost four teeth. So my dentist sent me to a specialist in Florida. (Wilkerson/Dupont Denistry in St. Petersburg) I live in South Carolina.
    I never knew there was a connection between teeth grinding and sleep apnea but when he explained it to me. It made perfect sense. He is designing a mouth piece for me that will open my airway by keeping my mouth slightly open. I have a mouthpiece but at best it only minimizes the damage, He also said this is why I have had severe neck and shoulder pain.

    Sometimes figuring out the medical maze out there is quite a challenge.

    Thanks for your article.

    • Hi Lou
      Glad you found the article helpful. It sounds like you have a good dentist. Yes the neck and shoulder pain is all connected to the teeth grinding. Doing yoga might help along with all the great things your dentist is doing.

      • Lesley says:

        I had RLS thirty years ago. The doctor I worked for then told me to take Vitamin E tablets daily. They really worked.

  5. Gary says:

    I found out years ago that I am not a grinder of teeth, but a clencher. It has led to much dental work and sharp teeth. I have gotten used to the dental guard and it has helped a lot.
    I also have a bad habit of chewing my tongue, I wonder if that is also related, or just a bad habit I picked up somewhere.
    In any case, thanks for the info, Jacqui.

  6. Clare says:

    I grind my teeth at night (just found this out from my dentist – my front teeth have become very very sharp! and was fitted for a mouthguard); I’ve noticed recently that I clamp my jaw during the day time a lot; and I have RLS symptoms at night sometimes. Last summer, I also had RLS-esque symptoms in my arms in the day-time, which was pretty scary.

    I found that my RLS symptoms worsened when I had caffeine so I have quit my Coca Cola habit and have a cup of english breakfast every few days – no other caffeine. Symptoms are better. I also plan to take a multi-vitamin.

    Thanks for this, Jacqui! I had NO IDEA these symptoms were linked to ADHD.

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Hi Clare, great to hear from you!! Thanks for sharing your experiences with teeth grinding and RLS. Congrats on giving up caffeine!! that is huge!! If we work on the idea that RLS is due to low levels of dopamine, then exercising, mediation, Omega 3 supplements and Vitamin C will all help. Do you take ADD meds? if so does your RLS get better when you are no them? Give me a shout if you need any more help. hugs Jacqui

  7. Wow! I never knew that restless leg syndrome was anything to do with ADD. I have suffered with it since childhood but only had it diagnosed in adulthood and was told by my GP that there is no treatment. It is always more severe when trying to sit still for any length of time such as in a meeting or on a car journey where I am not driving. I had always thought I had bad circulation but now I know differently.

    Thanks Jacqui


  8. Bjack says:

    Adderal xr definately will do it. Try vyvanse, as a pro-metabolic it works as you metabolize.

  9. Christine says:

    I’ve always been a teeth grinder At times it’s so loud that can wake others up with big screeching noises! Wish I could get used to a mouth guard, but they aren’t comfy to the point that I remove it in my sleep. I have cracked teeth, and on occasion wake up with stiff neck/shoulders or with a headache…Any suggestions other than mouth guard are definitely appreciated!

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Hi Christine
      Oh my goodness! you have really experienced some serious effects of teeth grinding. I am a big fan of hypnosis. I have found it to be really effective for a wide range of problems both for my clients. The company that I really like has a hypnosis for teeth grinding is the link
      Let me know how you get on!!!

      PS This is my affiliate link..I recommend them a lot… but don’t have to use that link.

  10. Sherra says:

    The only time I’ve had a problem with teeth grinding is when I was taking Adderall XR. After several months of taking it I noticed I would clench my jaw off and on all day. That, combined with the “rebound effect” I experienced on it prompted me to request a med change. I didn’t clench my jaw before taking it, and very, very rarely clench it now that I’ve switched meds (except when I’m angry, which isn’t often anymore).

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Hi Sherra..yes you are right..teeth grinding is reported a lot when people take Adderall. I am glad it went away when you changed meds. Also happy to hear you don’t get angry so often any more!! YAY!!


  1. […] 4) Sleep difficulties People with ADD find it hard to fall asleep because their mind is working +++. They also find it hard to wake up in the morning and it takes them a while to ‘get going’. While Insomnia is the most well known sleeping difficulty, the other common ones for ADHD adults are Teeth Grinding, Sleep Apnea and Restless Leg Syndrome. […]

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