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Awake With ADHD

Shouldn’t you be asleep right now? Yes, but..

Yes, but I’m not tired.

Yes, but my brain has made clear its preference for remaining awake.

Yes, I was asleep, but then I woke up, had a thought, and then that thought turned into more thoughts, and here we are.

NocturnalIf you’re like me, you’re pretty good at being awake when you should be asleep. And once you’ve perfected that skill, there’s usually another one that comes with it: being asleep when you should be awake.

Traditionally, there’s two ways my sleep has played tricks on me. The first is waking up in the middle of the night and then just … staying awake. I wake up, it’s like a switch flips on, and a stream of lucid thoughts is unleashed, which would be welcome any other time, but not when I’m trying to sleep please!

The other way my sleep has tended to be “not normal” is with bed times and wakeup times that creep later and later, far beyond what most people would consider reasonable. Late to bed, late to rise, and then some. Not only would I fail to be the early bird that gets the worm, I’d be the bird that doesn’t roll up until the entire worm population has been decimated.

Happily, this second problem has improved somewhat with age. Although to an extent, keeping a more “normal” bed time results in more middle-of-the-night waking up and not going back to sleep. That’s the disadvantage – the advantage is being a person who is capable of doing stuff in the morning.

I can’t say decisively that I have these sleep issues because I have ADHD, but I have learned that both of these problems are more prevalent among people with ADHD. For example, it’s been shown repeatedly that people with ADHD have higher rates of insomnia and interrupted sleep (example 1, example 2). There’s also evidence that people with ADHD tend to have delayed circadian rhythms – that is, that many of us have a natural sleep time that begins and ends later.

So, I figure it’s OK to talk about these problems here, because most of you can probably relate! (Again, shouldn’t you be asleep right now?)

I’ve found that all the typical advice – avoid caffeine, have a bedtime routine – does seem to help to some extent although it’s not a perfect solution. Maybe I’ll make another post on some of my tips for better sleep although to be honest with you, that would really be the sleep-deprived leading the sleep-deprived!

Image: Flickr/Ape Lad

Awake With ADHD

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). Awake With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 8 Dec 2017
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