Exploring the Connection Between ADHD and Sleep Disorders: Pathophysiology, Treatment, and Clinical Implications

Posted on:May 29, 2024
Last Updated: May 29, 2024
Time to read: 42–50 minutes

This article explores the intricate link between ADHD and sleep disorders. 

Individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience significantly more sleep-related issues compared to the general population, which are associated with worse symptoms of ADHD and diminished life quality.

They report an 82.6% lifetime prevalence of sleep problems, compared to 36.5% among controls, and are more likely to use hypnotics (61.4% vs. 20.2%).  [Bjorvatn et al., 2017]

Additionally, 26.6% of those with ADHD sleep less than six hours per night versus 7.6% of controls.  

Common symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, loud snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, restless legs, and periodic limb movements, with odds ratios for these issues ranging from 1.82 to 14.55. [Bjorvatn et al., 2017]

Sleep disturbances vary by age within the ADHD population, affecting about 73.3% of children compared to 66.8% of adults. This is significantly higher than the rates in the general population, where 20-30% of children and 6-50% of adults experience insomnia.  

Women with ADHD also report a higher incidence of insomnia at 43.9%, compared to 12.2% for women without ADHD. 

Despite the high prevalence, sleep disorders are often underdiagnosed and untreated within this group, suggesting a gap in comprehensive ADHD management. [Wajszilber et al., 2018]

Furthermore, ADHD is highly comorbid with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), complicating the clinical presentation and management. Sleep disorders are prevalent in children with both conditions, affecting up to 86%. [Souders et al., 2017]

The relationship between ADHD and sleep disorders is further complicated by other psychiatric comorbidities, such as anxiety, depression, and tic disorders, which are prevalent in this group, underscoring the need for comprehensive evaluations that include assessments for comorbid conditions when diagnosing and treating sleep disorders in those with ADHD. 

In this article, we specifically focus on the link between ADHD and sleep disorders. Although there are some overlaps with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and sleep disorders, we will address those associations in a separate article.