How to Wake Up When You Have ADHD

Waking up at a particular time can be very difficult when you have ADHD and it can cause huge problems, such as being late for work, flights, interviews or lectures.

If you have difficulty waking up, don’t just see it as a morning problem; instead, look your sleep habits as a whole. Everything is connected and if you can’t wake up, it could be because:

– You couldn’t make yourself go to bed

– you had problems falling asleep

– the quality of sleep was poor

However, while you are addressing those issues, you still need to wake up in the morning!.

Here are 7 suggestions to help:

1) Have More Than 1 Alarm Clock.

3 seems to be the magic number.  Place 1 by the side of your bed and the others in your room but a walk away from the bed, so you have to get up to switch them off.

2) Don’t Press Snooze!

Pressing snooze just delays the inevitable, and those extra 7 minutes won’t help you feel less tired.

3) Getting Up to Take ADHD Meds

If you take ADHD medication, consider setting one of your alarm clocks 30 minutes to 60 minutes earlier than the time you need to get up. When this alarm clock goes off, take your ADHD medication, then go back to sleep. When the next alarm goes off, your medication is already in your system and it will be easier to wake up.

4) Wake Up and Smell…

Have you heard of the bacon alarm clock where the smell of bacon wakes you up? You might not have been one of the peeps to get the limited edition device for your phone, but waking up to a tempting smell is a great idea to get you moving in the morning.

– Set a coffee maker on a timer and co-ordinate it with your wake up time. Then Voila! You wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

– Cook your breakfast in a slow cooker overnight. This might sound weird, but I tested this recipe out and it was awesome!

5) Have Something to Motivate You in The Morning.

Dr. Russell Barkley says ADHD is less about attention and more about motivation. What motivates you to get out of bed?

– Your dog?

– Getting something checked off your do to list?

– Eating a favorite breakfast food, or your first cup of coffee?

The trick is to pick something that really motivates you and not something that you would like ‘in theory’ or feel you are supposed to want.

The thing that motivates me first thing in the morning is to answer emails. This isn’t necessarily the healthiest thing to do, but it does motivate me. I check my email on my iphone while still lying down in bed. If an email has come in overnight, there is no way I can snooze, I have to get up and answer it.

One of my clients was really struggling to get up to get to work on time. After several conversations, we made the connection between him arriving on time and getting a promotion he really wanted.  He has been on time and even early ever since then.

6) Music

It’s very hard to stay asleep when there is upbeat music playing. Pandora has made waking up to music very easy. Thanks to the alarm clock feature on the app. Check it out here:

7) Have a Morning Routine.

A morning routine sets the day up for success. In his book, ‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod, explains his formula for a successful morning routine and people love it! It’s so compelling that you will be bounding out of bed earlier than you ever thought possible.

8) Get a Novel Alarm Clock.

There are 3 great alarm clocks to help you wake up:


Clocky Is an alarm clock on wheels and makes snoozing a thing of the past. If you don’t get up when the alarm goes off, Clocky jumps off your nightstand and hides, all the while making a sound like, (and I quote) “deranged R2D2 hitting a bell”.

Sonic Bomb

The Sonic Bomb Clock is the answer for everyone who sleeps through their alarm clock. It has an adjustable alarm that you can set to go off so it’s louder than a jackhammer. However, if that wasn’t enough, it comes with a bed shaker! You pop a harmless looking device under your mattress and when it’s time to wake the alarm sounds and your whole bed shakes until you are wide awake and UP!

A Full Spectrum Light Alarm Clock

A Full Spectrum Light Alarm Clock has a light that gets brighter and brighter rather like the sun rising, so that you wake up gradually. This is particularly good for people who are grumpy when they are woken up abruptly.

There are many on the market, with all different features to meet your needs. A quick Google search will help you choose yours.

Wishing you a fabulous Good Morning!!!

You might also like this article about How To Get Out Of Bed When You Have ADHD


  1. I have always had trouble getting up in the morning. Working on a farm my parents labeled me as “lazy”. I set several alarms. I can wake up to a light alarm, flashing lights or the smell of coffee. The problem with coffee is it makes me go to the bathroom all the time and I work retail so that doesn’t work well. Any suggestions?

  2. Emily says:

    I found a good way to wake up for me (I’m not diagnosed with ADHD although I still have a lit of problems waking up) is I immediately sit up and find my phone then I play an easy game of sudoku (I love sudoku) and it gets my mind active I guess or when I don’t want to do that I will immediately just get up (because I have animals that have to be fed at 5:30-6:00 ish) and do that

  3. Mathew says:

    Engaging the brain can also help break you out of that sleepy trance; something as simple as a quick chat or sending a text can wake you up. Use the buddy system to wake up, this app can help:

  4. I like the bacon alarm clock idea… I’ve never heard of it. I have always struggled with the snooze button. The Alarmy app seems to help, you have to get out of bed to take a specific picture, that matches one you’ve already taken. Then I make the bed. I won’t get back in it, if ice made it.

  5. Jen says:

    I’ve suffered with insomnia for years, but noted I slept really well when we had a heat wave, not a common occurrence in England.
    After reading an article on the Protact Ball blanket, link below. I’ve added heavier quilts and blankets, and take a hot water bottle to bed…..this is working quite well for me, along with other strategies….chill radio helps, I set it on a timer to go off after 30 minutes, when I’m hopefully asleep.

    • Hi Jen
      That is super interesting about you being able to sleep well in an English heat wave. I remember them well 🙂 I have checked out the link you posted, and its fascinating. I am going to add it to my sleep resource list. Thanks so much!

      • Guy says:

        Wow… Very interesting. I personally discovered that I sleep better without bed blankets with the thermostat set to 24’C in the bedroom. It’s well above the temperature that I set everywhere else in the house. It’s hot and it seems to help falling asleep. Further more, I move a lot during the night and I have to sit in the bed to untangle the blankets.

  6. Naomi says:

    I take my ADHD meds and supplements and open my shades, then I put on a sleep mask and set my clock for a 20 minute brain reset. Once the alarm goes off, I take off the mask and I usually wake up. The stark contrast between darkness and light works most days. I usually like a glass of oj while I am getting ready. If I’m still not awake, I jump in the shower, a doctor recommended this to me and it seems to help clear any lingering brain fog.

    • Hi Naomi! thanks for sharing all your great strategies for the morning. It sounds like you have them down to a fine art now!! great job!

  7. Ghosty says:

    Seconding the OJ. Fructose, and specifically fruit, have always been perfect for breakfast. Fruit is a brain food that pumps you up. Coffee stops me from nodding off in the evening but it doesn’t wake me up in the morning, I think this is a common thread in ADDers. But where coffee has failed me, a fruit salad, or a cup of AJ or OJ, or some jam on toast or a PBJ… That stuff works great for me. I reccomend it. What’s more, it’s both full of vitamins and vegan so you can take a little extra pride in it while enjoying sugary goodness. 😉

    • lol! Hi Ghosty! I love your name 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experiences with fruit. Fruit gets a bit of a bad rap because it has sugar in, but everything is relative. Its much better to have some natural sugar with fiber and vitamins in than a Mars Bar.

  8. Valerie says:

    I am like Stephanie. A deep sleeper that will start to do repeated things automatically without waking (like hitting snooze, or worse yet, turning off the alarm, without even waking up.) I will find something that works for a while, until it becomes automatic. I need to mix things up before I start doing them in my sleep. The trick is to find something “new” that works. One thing that really does work consistently is putting the alarm clock on the other side of the room. But that does not allow for a gradual wake up, which I really do like. I think I may give the bright light clock a try. That will probably work…for a while 🙂

    • Hi Valerie
      Thanks for sharing your waking up experience. How many hours sleep do you usually get? Let us know how you get on with with the light clock!
      J 🙂

  9. Mike says:

    My problem is needing a jolt. I see all of my friends and co workers drinking coffee and it gives them a kick in the morning. I drink coffee because I like it, but it doesnt give me any boost of energy. Its the same with caffiene loaded soda, energy drinks, etc. Its like they do the opposite for me. Anyone have anything that helps?

    • Hi Mike, one of my clients found, like you that coffee did nothing for him. If he needed a jolt of mental alertness he would drink a glass of fresh orange juice. Maybe you could try that!

  10. stephanie says:

    I have tried nearly EVERYTHING to get my ADHD butt out of bed in the mornings! It’s probably my biggest challenge/failure as an ADDer. In fact, it nearly cost me my previous job (which ended mutually instead of it actually getting me fired).

    Tried multiple alarms, which worked until I would get out of bed and back in bed w/o even being totally conscious of doing it. I am a very deep sleeper, it seems. Not pressing snooze: I somehow can press it in my sleep, again the deep sleeping thing really kills me here. Anything I’ve ever done as a routine (like press snooze), I begin to do automatically.

    ADHD Meds in the morning – I am not taking any currently (for once), but I have tried waking up and drinking an energy drink immediately (which I have sitting on my bedside table). It can work for a little while, but my biggest issue is still the motivation to get up once I’m awake.

    The smell of coffee would wake me up, if I remembered to set the coffee pot the night before… which I have yet to remember in about a year.

    My dog is lazier than I am, so I often wake up to a cocker spaniel sprawled out next to me. Any motivation to actually move goes out the window… I’d hate to disturb such a cute dog. (Easy solution would be not to let my dog sleep on my bed, but he’s so cuddly!)

    Music has been helpful, but my issue is once again, routine. It’s like my mind gets used to hearing the music, so it suddenly has less of an impact (thus I sleep thru even the most obnoxiously loud music). I have found that a radio station helps more than having the same song go off each day…the variation seems to keep my brain from automatically ignoring it. Unfortunately, the morning radio has too much talk, which annoys me, so I turn it off and go back to sleep 🙁

    I’ve tried the daylight alarm clock, and even keeping my curtains open enough so as to let in sunlight… but I sleep w/ an eyemask b/c I need absolute dark to fall asleep. Minor detail.

    I now work in an office where I don’t have to arrive very early, which makes it harder to FORCE myself out of bed. However, I’d like to be one of those people who gets up, goes for a run, and then begins my day. For me, routine is good, but after a while, even the most successful of routines ceases to work.

    • Marisa says:

      I’ve found I get up easier in warm weather. It’s difficult for me to get up in the morning but more so when I’m cold. Thought it was interesting that a few other people said this too.

  11. I had a good giggle when I read about “clocky”. I can just picture my bleary eyed teenager trying to find the hidden clock ha ha.

    Some lovely tools that can make a difference. Thank you for the article 🙂

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Hi Terry! Glad you thought Clocky was fun!! me too!!

  12. Christine says:

    I always look forward to your articles every week. This one is interesting, because I’ve been contemplating a full spectrum light alarm clock but not sure it would do the trick. I noticed when I take stimulant medication I have a really hard time waking up in the morning. A simulated sunrise sure would be a nice way to wake up, though!

  13. My pleasure, Jacqui. I’ve learned that a big part of managing my ADHD is to finding coping mechanisms that work and to *consistently* perform the behavior. It’s much easier to get my brain on board when my body is consistent–it removes the mental challenge.

    It really wasn’t difficult to get used to it either. Now, I usually wake up automatically a few minutes before 6am. I’ll often read in bed for a while too. So even though I’m awake at 6am, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m up-and-at-em them. Relaxing in bed for a little while is part of easing into my day, and I do have another alarm to remind me to get out of bed later so I don’t end up laying there too long.

  14. The thing that has helped me the most is to get up at the same time every day: 6am Eastern Time. Weekends, holidays, and vacations are no exception. I also travel a lot and I stay on this schedule even in different time zones–so when I’m in California or Washington, I get up at 3am local time. I don’t always go to bed at the same time, but rather go to bed when I’m tired and ready to sleep.

    It is a mental shift from, “Oh, man, I’m tired and sleepy and just want to stay in bed,” to “Oh, man, I’m tired and sleepy; it’s time to go to bed.”

    The 6am time is usually earlier than almost anything else I might have to do which allows me to ease into my day by doing some things I enjoy. I also use this time to do some regular “housekeeping” type tasks, plan my day, and to set alarms for things I need to do at certain times (including my earliest appointments). Since this time is usually well before my first scheduled appointments, it also keeps me from laying in bed just because I’m dreading a particular early morning task. I take my medication at 7am, so it is already in my system by the time I really need it.

    • Jacqueline Sinfield says:

      Hi Ricky
      WOW!! Good for you!! that takes a lot of discipline. I was impressed when you said ‘even at the weekends and holidays’ then even MORE so when I read in different times zones too!!

      I love the mental shift you made, and that you get some time before the rest of the world wakes up to get your day started.

      Thanks for sharing!!!


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