View Full Version : ADD + Insomnia = a connection ?


missmedusa
04-27-14, 12:46 AM
Just curious...how many of you on here have insomnia or delayed sleep phase "disorder"?

As a lifelong insomniac I've constantly struggled with problems such as lateness for work/school , getting homework done/remembering to do homework, careless mistakes etc. Thing is, after I got diagnosed with ADHD inattentive I wasn't sure whether my issues were primarily ADD issues or insomnia issues or both...or if insomnia exacerbated ADD problems...or if ADD caused insomnia, or if I've been misdiagnosed!

On some level I think that the ADD must exist independently of insomnia, based on how I feel when I'm well rested (a rare occurrence). I think that I might be able to manage my ADD much more adequately (perhaps without meds) though if I got more than 3 hours of sleep on nights before school.

So, I've been researching insomnia; heavily. What I've learned is that everyone has a different "chronotype" or time they're body naturally wants to go to sleep. Unfortunately, my chronotype basically dictates that I go to bed around 3 or 4 a.m. Well, I have class at 9 am and it takes me a really long time to get to school since I have to take public transit. I have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. Interestingly, this is the hour where my body reaches what is called "mid-sleep", or point where you hit a deep sleep.

Funny thing; people who suffer from constant lack of sleep exhibit very similar issues that people with inattentive ADHD do. These two issues are actually caused by trouble in the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. Even a lack of dopamine/transporters are involved.

I wonder if ADD can cause insomnia, or if things like "delayed sleep phase disorder" (aka, people with "socially inappropriate" chronotypes ) can cause ADD? Perhaps its possible that over time your body/brain become so sleep deprived that it can no longer create the correct dopamine/seratonin levels that it needs?

Has anyone else read research on insomnia and ADD? How many of you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation that was present before taking medication?

sarahsweets
04-27-14, 07:10 AM
One of the best treatments for insomnia for me has been extremely strict sleep hygiene. (I have an emergency supply of sleep meds for the desperate nights). I go to bed and wake up in the same window of time every night. For me thats bed between 10-12a and waking up between 4-6. I had to train my body to do this and it took a solid year before I saw results. Its hard and draining but it does pay off. I am fortunate now to hardly need sleep meds but like I said, this is easier said then done.

dvdnvwls
04-27-14, 10:45 AM
I definitely had ADHD when I was a small child and happily sleeping well at normal hours.

Conman
04-27-14, 05:26 PM
i dont know if insomnia or DSPD can cause AD/HD necessarily. but there could be a correlation in AD/HD and sleep problems.

as long as i can remember ive had problems sleeping every day of life for the most part that i found out later was called DSPD. my mom would set timer to my tv and id be in bed watching tv until i basically blacked out, i thought of it as sleep only when i dreamt. but id look at the clock til i blacked out, and it got into the 1-2 am range before i slept finally. as long as i can remember that's how i do sleep. now i can at least stay up as late as i feel cuz i dont have any particular responsibilities on weekends, breaks and some summer depending if i have class or job.

had a brief bout of insomnia in junior high, but i think that one was more due to my first experience with bad depression

Twiggy
04-27-14, 07:06 PM
I usually go to sleep at 2:30AM. No matter what. I was never diagnosed with a sleep disorder.

daveddd
04-27-14, 07:10 PM
its somewhat recognized that people with adhd have trouble sleeping because of their busy minds

dvdnvwls
04-27-14, 07:30 PM
its somewhat recognized that people with adhd have trouble sleeping because of their busy minds
That feeling of "can't sleep because my brain won't shut off" happens to me, especially when badly stressed or procrastinating.

Twiggy
04-27-14, 08:26 PM
Yeah, my mind is always on and I can't switch it off...even when my body is tired and ready to sleep.
I'm always thinking about something random.

missmedusa
04-28-14, 01:34 AM
One of the best treatments for insomnia for me has been extremely strict sleep hygiene. (I have an emergency supply of sleep meds for the desperate nights). I go to bed and wake up in the same window of time every night. For me thats bed between 10-12a and waking up between 4-6. I had to train my body to do this and it took a solid year before I saw results. Its hard and draining but it does pay off. I am fortunate now to hardly need sleep meds but like I said, this is easier said then done.

Ah, yeah. You see this in all the literature for help for insomniacs. Believe me, I have tried this (and just about everything else). Sleep meds make me foggy the next day. It's worse than not sleeping enough and then just having some coffee in the morning. I tried really hard this semester to do this and it actually made the problem worse. I have classes at 9 am and a long commute, so I'm supposed to wake up at 6:30 am. I thought if I did it long enough my body would get the clue, but the opposite happened.

Now my brain/body doesn't want to go to bed until 4 or 5 am! Awesome! I love going to school with only an hour or two of sleep and being expected to function. It's super fun. I also just love laying in the dark for several hours to try and adhere to the "no bright light/screen time an hour before bed" thing in hopes that I'll fall asleep sooner.

No such luck though. Even if I manage to fall asleep before 3-4 am, I just end up waking up 2 hours later then not being able to fall asleep for another three or four. I give up until I can somehow afford to see a specialist who actually knows about this crap and stops telling me to have better sleep hygiene and improve my diet.

Clearly that isn't working @_@. It has never worked. I had to be awake at 5:30 am to be at school by 7:30 am back in high school and I just zombied my way around school all day. I have absolutely no idea how I graduated, honestly. I had this issue as a child too. My parents were always so annoyed that I couldn't get out of bed in a timely fashion, that I would still be awake at 11:30 pm (that's when they went to bed lol, I was up much later of course!).

People seem to have this idea that it's a matter of will power/discipline/forethought. For me, it is not. With 20 + years of exhaustion and misery, you would think that if it was related to that, that I would have just gotten my life together and gone to bed at normal times like a "good responsible person".

Thanks for your input though (I really do appreciate it), I imagine that for many people this would work. Maybe some fellow insomniacs on here can try this :) .

missmedusa
04-28-14, 01:41 AM
its somewhat recognized that people with adhd have trouble sleeping because of their busy minds

This is kind of what I was thinking. I definitely have a busy mind. Or maybe my brain gets filled with stuff at night because I'm a night owl and that's my natural hour of productivity :P

sarahsweets
04-28-14, 04:11 AM
missmedusa:

Have you ever had a sleep study done?

missmedusa
04-28-14, 04:54 AM
missmedusa:

Have you ever had a sleep study done?

As of now, no I haven't.

I'm working on looking into that. My insurance is kind of a pain. They tell me they cover something then they magically find some fine print 2 months later and go "oh, never mind! now you owe suddenly your provider $200!" So I need to be absolutely sure that they will cover it.

I wasn't able to do it before due to various financial issues. I was only able to obtain health insurance after entering university, via the university insurance + taking out loans to help pay for that.

BellaVita
04-28-14, 08:04 PM
Just curious...how many of you on here have insomnia or delayed sleep phase "disorder"?

As a lifelong insomniac I've constantly struggled with problems such as lateness for work/school , getting homework done/remembering to do homework, careless mistakes etc. Thing is, after I got diagnosed with ADHD inattentive I wasn't sure whether my issues were primarily ADD issues or insomnia issues or both...or if insomnia exacerbated ADD problems...or if ADD caused insomnia, or if I've been misdiagnosed!

On some level I think that the ADD must exist independently of insomnia, based on how I feel when I'm well rested (a rare occurrence). I think that I might be able to manage my ADD much more adequately (perhaps without meds) though if I got more than 3 hours of sleep on nights before school.

So, I've been researching insomnia; heavily. What I've learned is that everyone has a different "chronotype" or time they're body naturally wants to go to sleep. Unfortunately, my chronotype basically dictates that I go to bed around 3 or 4 a.m. Well, I have class at 9 am and it takes me a really long time to get to school since I have to take public transit. I have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. Interestingly, this is the hour where my body reaches what is called "mid-sleep", or point where you hit a deep sleep.

Funny thing; people who suffer from constant lack of sleep exhibit very similar issues that people with inattentive ADHD do. These two issues are actually caused by trouble in the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. Even a lack of dopamine/transporters are involved.

I wonder if ADD can cause insomnia, or if things like "delayed sleep phase disorder" (aka, people with "socially inappropriate" chronotypes ) can cause ADD? Perhaps its possible that over time your body/brain become so sleep deprived that it can no longer create the correct dopamine/seratonin levels that it needs?

Has anyone else read research on insomnia and ADD? How many of you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation that was present before taking medication?

I have this too, my body doesn't start to get tired until around 4am.

I've been this way since I was a baby, actually. My parents always had trouble getting me to sleep. I'd stay up for hours.

I think I have delayed sleep phase syndrome.

missmedusa
04-28-14, 10:50 PM
I have this too, my body doesn't start to get tired until around 4am.

I've been this way since I was a baby, actually. My parents always had trouble getting me to sleep. I'd stay up for hours.

I think I have delayed sleep phase syndrome.

There are some researchers who argue that it's only a disorder/syndrome in that the world is ruled by people who hold this misconception that if you just try hard enough that you will be able to adjust your sleep schedule. So far, what has been found is that there is great variation among the population as to who can change their sleep schedule, who is more prone to being an "early bird" or a "night owl" etc.

You, like me...must be someone who has a later "chronotype" (useful terminology, though arguably not all encompassing of variability in human sleep needs/habits) and struggles to rearrange your body's natural clock.

The suggestion to alleviate this problem from some researchers/doctors is to get exposure to more bright light, especially sunlight. (I'm personally a bit averse to this idea as bright light tends to give me a headache, and I also live in the desert where too much exposure to sunlight can create health problems. I'm still considering trying it though, since this sleep issue has created many hindrances to my goals and seems to be exacerbating ADD issues.)

I'd love to see more advocacy for flexible school and work schedules, more online components to classes/jobs etc.

What have you tried to alter your sleep schedule, and was any of it even marginally successful?

namazu
04-28-14, 11:24 PM
You can get a "light therapy" box. Older ones are big and take special lightbulbs; newer ones are smaller and have LEDs emitting blue light (which research has apparently demonstrated is most crucial).

You don't have to stare at the light (and in fact, it's not recommended), but it may help, without the UV risks of desert sun. The light boxes are not cheap (
$50 - $200 US), but depending on how disruptive this issue is to your life, it might be worth the cost of one therapy session... Sometimes you can find used ones on eBay or Craigslist -- not recommended for the older models, where the bulb can lose its oomph with time, but probably OK with the newer LEDs.

I have used a light box like this:
<img src=http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4150PXtE8PL._AA160_.jpg>
in previous years with (I think) some effect.

I have also used a low dose of melatonin sometimes at night to help get to sleep.

Timing is very important with both light boxes / sunlight and with melatonin, since taking it at the wrong time of day/night can make things worse.

I'm also working on other aspects of sleep hygiene (routines, avoiding computer late at night -- still unsuccessfully!, etc.). At the moment, this is what I'm focusing on (since light is plentiful), but it's not easy.

For me, having medication in my system in the evening seems to make it easier for me to get my act together enough to get to bed. It's certainly not perfect, but it seems to help. Other people find taking medication too late contributes to their insomnia, so it seems to vary quite a bit from person to person, even among people diagnosed with ADHD.

Fortunately, I am not currently in a position where I have to be anywhere early in the morning and pretend to be functional. Unfortunately, the lack of structure in my day makes using my time well and keeping up the sleep hygiene more difficult.

MADD As A Hatte
04-29-14, 01:44 AM
Sleep disorders are a known symptom of the ADD brain. Tedious, but true! Some people call it monkey brain. I call it Cockatoo Brain.

I had insomnia and sleep problems for years. I trained myself into it, by mistake, when my children were babies. Part of the attraction with not sleeping was being awake during the dark, quiet hours, when everything was calm and peaceful. But that's counterproductive for most of us. Finally I got fed up with being a spastic at work, and I hated myself for being irritable and screaming at my children, poor little buggers! Single parenting is difficult enough without sleep deprivation to make it worse.

The thing is, sleep is a habit. If you're out of a sleep routine, you need to train yourself back into one. It's not too hard, but you do need effective tools to help you. After following a lot of well-meant advice about (for me) useless remedial sleep methods (self-hypnosis, counting sheep, meditation etc.) I cut to the chase and loaded up the sleep toolbox with something that actually works.

I am not a medical person, this suggestion is only based on my personal experience.

I can HIGHLY RECOMMEND a sleeping concoction called Zolpidem / Stilnox. This drug has got a lot of bad press, but if used correctly, it works like a dream. Pun intended! Various brand names: in Australia it's Stilnox; in the USA it's Zolpidem, Ambien (I think). It's prescription only, and rightly so. This stuff kicks ****. And if taken correctly, there is NO sleep hangover. This is not a "sleeping pill", as such. It works on different receptors in the brain to things like Valium, and other old fashioned sleeping pills that would leave you feeling groggy in the morning.

This is the very informative Wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zolpidem#Research

This is the information sheet:
http://www.rxlist.com/ambien-drug/patient-images-side-effects.htm


Here's my method, based on my experience only:

When you start, treat it as a personal drug trial. Take it on a night when you DO NOT have to get up early in the morning, to get to work or school or wherever. Like any new medication, you'll need to work out your own tolerance etc. Take the absolute minimum - I started with half a pill. If that works, just stick with a half. For me, I get a perfect deep, deep 4-hour sleep out of half a pill. It's just heaven. Nothing I love quite so much as a good sleep!

Based on my experience, you MUST get into bed as soon as you take it - you've got a 20- minute zone in which it takes effect. Just believe me on this. Get into bed and stay there.

As noted in the literature, this drug can be abused, by morons who treat it like a party drug whilst drinking enormous volumes of alcohol etc., so be wise. It's a bit like Ritalin, really, if abused.

It took me months to train myself back into sleeping properly, taking it every night, but it was really worth it. Lack of sleep plays havoc with the brain and the body in all sorts of ways. When you've got yourself sorted, and you're back into proper sleep patterns, and feeling good again, WEAN yourself off it. I did so by taking it Sun-Thurs, then not on Friday/Saturday nights. And then I cut back to alternate week nights. Now I only take it if I need to, which isn't often. Yay!

missmedusa
04-29-14, 08:24 PM
Thanks! I will check further into all of these things you guys have suggested!

I'm planning to try and fix my sleep schedule once classes are out for the semester. There are some required classes that are only offered in the morning, once per school year, and not in summer. So not taking and passing these classes in a timely fashion could put me really behind on my degree. I have to fix this issue, and soon. I can't do another semester of only getting 2-3 hours of sleep on school days @_@.

You are both right, maybe timing/dosage is my issue with the sleep meds/supplements. I had a strange thing happen the last couple times I took melatonin. I took it about an hour before bed, but it didn't take effect until 12 hours later...then I totally zonked out for about 11 hours. Not helping my daytime exhaustion obviously xD.
In the past if I made a strong valarian/chamomile tea it was very helpful, but it seems to be no longer effective, even if I stop using it for awhile and then go back. I will definitely take a good hard look at Ambien and take a small dose.

I have set up a small sleep schedule to get me started even before the semester ends. So far it really has not been working out, even if I get in bed at the time I've scheduled
I tried to keep it "reasonable", knowing that my natural time is 3-5 am, I tried to go down to maybe 2:30 am, took a hot shower, drank the chamomile tea...tried reading a book in dim light (since laying in the dark while awake seems to make things worse). It didn't really work. It still took me awhile to fall asleep, then I kept waking up. This always happens if I go to sleep too early, I wake up. I'm hoping that maybe ambien will help me stay asleep. I will talk to my GP about it for sure, and then maybe if I can get a sleep study done and determine the problem I could find a more permanent solution. I will definitely look at some light boxes and think about using those in the morning.

I'd be thrilled if I could wake up in the morning like other people. I actually rather like being awake before sunrise and having a little time to chill/drink my coffee/listen to some music while the sun rises, get some stuff done, take my time getting ready etc. Plus, Arizona is so freaking hot 8 months out of the year that being awake when it's still somewhat cool out and having a nice sunrise to look at is always a great way to start the day.

Anyway, I really appreciate all of your guys' input and suggestions/sharing of your experiences. I'm always open to hearing more too!

Corina86
04-30-14, 12:59 PM
I never managed to get a normal sleep: 6-8 hours per night each night.
-I never fall asleep in less than 1-2 hours, so I need to stay 9 hours in bed to sleep 7;
-I usually wake up in the middle of the night and don't fall back asleep until it's morning;
-I sleep better in the morning;
-I can have insomnia for several days, but I can also sleep 14 hours in a single day
-the amount of sleep I get doesn't always determine how sleepy I am during the day; it depends also on my menstrual cycle and the weather
-I often fall asleep in inappropriate places: on the bus, on the toilet at the office, during meetings with my boss etc
-I move around like crazy before I fall asleep and often during my sleep -> I need a large bed otherwise I risk falling from it; I can't keep lamps or other breakable objects near my bed either and I often hit my head to the wall...
-I can fall asleep with eyes open, but it gives me horrible nightmares
-I often have panic attacks during the night for no reason, but it they usually go away after sunrise
-I have slight hallucinations before falling asleep that creep the hell out of me, usually with lights and creepy shades; sometimes I see flashes of light after I close my eyes, yet there is nothing to cause them; dreams often involve weird flashes of light, which I interpret as being lightnings or someone turning on the light in my room and I wake up
-feeling tired makes me a feel like a dumb zombie, it sends my ADHD through the roof, while feeling like I had a good sleep gives me a pretty decent focus, but it's rare and usually during the weekends, when I sleep 10-12 hours per night
-sleeping pills work great, but I get tolerance to them; Cipralex (escitalopram) made me sleep well, but I needed at least 9-10 hours sleep per day and I was still feeling tired all the time, even after 3 months.

It'sPeter
04-30-14, 04:26 PM
The first time I took Ritalin, I got sooo sleepy. I think, and it's just a theory, that taking Ritalin satiated the need for dopamine. I wasn't looking for a dopamine fix by playing videogames, watching a movie or TV series, or by surfing the web.
I must say that it never has been so obvious as that first time, but after the initial high a Ritalin intake gives me, going to bed becomes much easier to me.

Chamakay
01-20-15, 05:47 PM
I don't necessarily have a sleep disorder. I find I procrastinate about going to bed a lot and before I know it, it's 3AM. It goes without saying that this is not good for my sleep cycle and therefore when I need to sleep I can't. When I go to bed it usually takes 1-8 hours before falling asleep if I do. Whenever I lie down to sleep and turn the light out it's almost as if the ADHD mind gets 20x more intense and thoughts fly in from left and right. I find it beneficial to meditate and try to clear my mind before sleeping.

Jenn1202
03-09-15, 03:01 AM
I've always been a night awl, ever since I can remember.

Karamo
03-09-15, 09:29 AM
I can relate very much to Corina's post.

I try so extremely hard to not screw up my circadian rhythm. I put my alarm every morning and take my dex but it has stopped giving me an 'alerting' effect so I can wake up three hours later when the effects have worn off!

However, I can NOT sleep at night. I spend my awake time, 12 hours a day from 10 AM to 10 PM not wanting to live. Completely fatigued - not answering calls, texts or anything just wanting to die. Yawning so much CONSTANTLY that it makes me unable to converse (which I never want to do when I feel bad). Come nightfall when I lay in bed, my mind becomes much less foggy, I connect dots much more quickly, I post on forums, write to people and feel some hope; "tomorrow I will ride my bike or at least go outside!". This is where I stop yawning and can't fall asleep no matter what. It doesn't matter if I've exhausted myself physically and mentally or having been sleep-deprived the night before - I. CAN. NOT. FALL. ASLEEP.

It's not a meds issue - it's been like this all my life but progressively gotten worse over the years.

This is one big reason why I just want to end my life every single day... I get these motivational burst during night which I CAN NOT act upon during the day, no matter how strongly I felt about it during the night.

For quite a long period I set my alarm in the morning and the moment it went off, rolled myself forcibly out of bed so that I HAD to get up. (which led me to stagger into the bathroom and lay in the bath for at least an hour).

I did this for several week and all it did was cut my night sleep down to four hours a night, significantly impairing my cognitive abilities and making me further suicidal. But I could never fall asleep at night anyway.

I've taken Imovane daily (also a z-bensodiazepine like Stilnoct but a smoother and longer acting effect) ever since I was released from the hospital three months ago in order be able to fall asleep before 9AM in the morning... I fear I've become dependant on them which makes everything really crappy... The nights I decide to not take them I don't fall asleep at all :(