People with ADHD may experience sleep issues, such as insomnia or circadian rhythm disorders. These issues may cause delayed sleep patterns, poor sleep quality, and difficulty waking up in the morning.

Sleep disorders and ADHD can co-occur. Symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity and hyperactivity, can also cause difficulty getting to sleep at night and establishing a regular bedtime routine.

A lack of sleep or not getting good quality sleep may make it harder for people to wake up in the morning. However, certain lifestyle changes may help people with ADHD improve their sleep quality and ability to wake up.

This article examines the link between ADHD and sleep patterns. It also explores tips for waking up more easily and helping a child with ADHD who is experiencing difficulty waking.

A young woman with ADHD lying in bed feeling tired in the morning.-2Share on Pinterest
Fiordaliso/Getty Images

According to the charity Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), around 75% of children and teenagers with ADHD and 80% of adults with ADHD also have a sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders can cause difficulty sleeping or disturbed quality of sleep, which may make it harder for people to wake up in the morning.

Possible sleep issues

According to a 2019 article, circadian rhythm phase disorders are common in people with ADHD. Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) is one such condition in which people have a delayed bedtime of 2 hours or more than the recommended or usual bedtime for a person their age.

People with DSPS have difficulty falling asleep and waking up. Their internal body clock is out of sync with standard sleeping and waking times.

As many as 75% of people with ADHD that began in childhood may have a delayed circadian rhythm phase. They are commonly “night owls” who feel more alert in the evening. This may make it difficult to get to sleep at night and cause daytime sleepiness.

Altered impulsivity control in ADHD may also make it more difficult for a person to go to bed, causing delayed sleep. A lack of bedtime routine may be more common in people with ADHD, leading to falling asleep later and affecting waking times.

Other potential reasons for difficulty waking up in the morning

Sleep inertia is the grogginess people may feel in the morning, making it difficult for them to wake up and feel alert. According to a 2019 review, the following factors may cause or worsen sleep inertia:

According to a 2018 review, sleep disorders that commonly co-occur with ADHD include:

  • Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB): SDB is an atypical breathing pattern during sleep. It occurs more frequently in people with ADHD.
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS): RLS is an uncomfortable sensation in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them. RLS is most severe at nighttime. Up to 44% of people with ADHD may have RLS or similar symptoms.
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorder: Changes in the circadian rhythm can cause people to go to sleep and wake up two hours later than usual. People with ADHD may have changes in genes that affect the circadian rhythm.
  • Insomnia: Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep. Insomnia is more common in children and adults with ADHD compared with people without ADHD.
  • Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. People with narcolepsy are twice as likely to have an ADHD diagnosis in childhood.

Sleep disorders may negatively affect the amount and quality of sleep people get, which may make it harder to wake up in the morning.

They may also have a negative impact on a person’s mood, attention, behavior, performance, and overall quality of life.

People may need to contact a doctor if they have persistent problems with waking up, if a lack of sleep is affecting their functioning during the day, or if they have sleep disorder symptoms.

The doctor will assess the person’s symptoms and the possible causes of sleep issues. Potential causes of sleep problems can include medication or mental health issues.

They may ask people to keep a sleep diary to track symptoms and the times they go to sleep and wake up. A doctor may also refer people to a sleep center to monitor activity in the body as a person sleeps.

Once a doctor identifies the underlying cause of difficulty waking up, they can help develop a suitable treatment plan.

Managing any sleep disorders or sleep loss may help people wake easier. CHADD recommends the following tips:

  • dietary and lifestyle changes, such as limiting caffeine and alcohol or eating a smaller meal in the evening
  • practicing good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding screens before bedtime and keeping to the same sleep-wake cycle if possible
  • getting exercise each day
  • taking melatonin in the evening to help regulate circadian rhythms
  • relaxation techniques, such as meditation or using a weighted blanket
  • bright light therapy, which delivers bright light when a person wakes to help align sleep schedules

Helping a child with ADHD wake up in the morning may include setting up a positive bedtime routine, such as:

  • ensuring they go to bed at the appropriate time for their age
  • implementing a relaxing bedtime routine 30–60 minutes before bed
  • limiting screen time before bed
  • making sure their bedroom is cool, dark, and comfortable

It may also help to create a morning routine for children with ADHD. The Child Mind Institute suggests the following tips:

  • discussing with children what they need to do in a clear way
  • praising them for practicing good habits
  • breaking tasks into small steps for them to follow
  • creating a plan or checklist of what they need to do and the time to take for each step
  • focusing on the essential tasks first, such as getting dressed and having breakfast
  • creating a reward system or incentive for getting up on time and sticking to a plan

ADHD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on ADHD.

Was this helpful?

Sleep disorders are common among people with ADHD. These conditions affect the quality and quantity of sleep a person gets, which may make it difficult to wake in the morning.

Some symptoms of ADHD may also cause restless sleep or difficulty falling asleep, which can lead to delays in the morning.

A doctor can assess any problems people have with waking up. They may be able to suggest treatment options to help people sleep and wake more easily.