Seventy-five percent of adults with ADHD have problems with sleep. The most common issues are getting to sleep, staying asleep, and waking up.
Another sleep problem for some ADHDers is falling asleep during the daytime at unusual times.
For example, in class, in meetings, or while driving. The people who experience this often have inattentive ADHD.
If you had a disrupted night’s sleep or jet lag, that could explain daytime sleepiness.
But this group of people experiences daytime sleepiness even after getting ample sleep at night.
Daytime sleepiness is interesting because it gets 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, staying alert becomes impossible, and you fall 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.
Yet, if something exciting happens or it’s possible to get up and move, the sleepiness goes away.
Because physical movement stops sleepiness, some people look hyperactive, but it is a behavioral strategy they developed to prevent themselves from falling asleep.
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.
Over the years, you might have found coping strategies, perhaps putting a push pin in your shoe and press the sharp point into your foot to give yourself a discrete jolt in meetings. Or pinch your inner arm where the skin is sensitive until the sleepiness fades.
These creative techniques might work in the short term, but rather than inflict pain on yourself, it can be helpful to address the root cause.
If you have an ongoing problem staying awake during your day-to-day activities, here are nine 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.
3. Check your Vitamin D and Iron levels; deficiency in either can cause fatigue.
Treat your ADHD
4. Adults with ADHD and daytime sleepiness find ADHD meds very helpful. Work closely with your prescribing doctor and find the therapeutic dose for you.
5. If you are taking ADHD meds, be sure they are in full effect when driving in your car.
Make your environment stimulating
Here are a few examples
6. If you are doing a dull task, use your timer to keep you moving as much as possible to create a sense of urgency
7. 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 whiteboard for everyone or be one of the presenters.
8. Change activities frequently.
9 . Notice which situations cause daytime sleepness and look for common themes. Do you fall asleep in rooms with strip lighting? No windows? Some meetings but not others?
Get curious and figure out what the influencing factors are. Some people with daytime sleepiness feel powerless and that sleep could sweep over them anytime. Noticing themes help you to feel more in control