Scientists do not fully understand the link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. That said, there are some hypotheses as to why this link may exist, such as corresponding brain activity and similar irregularities in neurotransmitters.
ADHD is a commonly diagnosed disorder in childhood. It endures through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and high support needs. Doctors have reported sleep problems in
When people have narcolepsy, they frequently fall asleep suddenly and without warning at unexpected times. The sleep disorder can also cause sudden loss of muscle control, called cataplexy, and leaves people feeling excessively tired during the day.
Read on for more information about having both ADHD and narcolepsy, the link between the two, and how to treat narcolepsy and ADHD.
It is possible for a person to have both ADHD and narcolepsy. ADHD and narcolepsy are closely linked, with around
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Corresponding brain activity
A 2020 study found that ADHD symptoms and sleep disturbances may share certain brain activity in common. This includes structural changes in the ventral attention system, one of two sensory orienting systems in the brain.
It also includes structural changes to the frontostriatal circuits, which are particular neural pathways in the brain. It may be that a person with these changes in the brain is more likely to experience ADHD, narcolepsy, or both.
A person with ADHD may have irregular dopamine and noradrenaline, neurotransmitters that help people focus and pay attention. Dysregulation of noradrenaline can also lead to changes in REM sleep, like the changes people with narcolepsy experience. Dysregulated neurotransmitters could
Research indicates that there may also be a genetic link between the two conditions.
Treatments for narcolepsy and ADHD may overlap, as some of the medications a doctor may prescribe for each condition would affect the other.
Treatments that are common to both conditions include:
This is a stimulant that doctors
Psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, training, and medications can all benefit a person with ADHD, especially in combination. There are four types of FDA-approved medication to treat ADHD:
- atomoxetine (Strattera)
- methylphenidate group
- amphetamine salt group, including dexamfetamine and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
Some natural remedies may also be effective in treating ADHD. Learn about them here.
Treatments for narcolepsy include:
- avoiding caffeine and alcohol
- napping throughout the day
- sticking to a sleep schedule
- creating a comfortable sleeping environment
A doctor may also prescribe medications for narcolepsy, such as:
- sodium oxybate, which can improve loss of muscle control and help a person sleep
- antidepressants, such as citalopram or fluoxetine
- stimulants, such as dexamphetamine, methylphenidate, or modafinil
The symptoms of ADHD may include:
- limited attention to detail
- difficulties with organization and prioritization
- a limited attention span and difficulty focusing
- continually starting new tasks before finishing prior tasks
- regularly misplacing things
- difficulty staying quiet
- difficulty dealing with stress
- mood swings and irritability
- interrupting others consistently and blurting out responses
- risk-taking behavior
- extreme impatience
ADHD can be slightly different in females. Learn about the differences here.
As well as some challenges, there are also several benefits to having ADHD. Learn more about them here.
ADHD often occurs with other disorders, which may
- oppositional defiant disorder
- dyslexia, difficulty with reading
- dysgraphia, difficulty with writing
A person can have both narcolepsy and ADHD, and the two are closely linked. Experts are not sure of the exact nature of the link but hypothesize that it could be genetic or related to brain activity and disruptions toneurotransmitters.
Doctors may prescribe certain medications to treat both narcolepsy and ADHD, such as modafinil or the stimulant methylphenidate.
People with ADHD may also benefit from other medications and therapy.
People with narcolepsy can benefit from maintaining healthy sleep habits. They made also take other medications, including antidepressants, sodium oxybate, and stimulants like dexamphetamine.