ADHD & sleep disorders

An estimated 25-50% of individuals with ADHD report problems with sleep.[i] But does ADHD affect sleep? And can ADHD cause insomnia?

Sleep disturbances caused by ADHD are often overlooked, but recent studies indicate that ADHD symptoms persist through the night from “mental and physical restlessness [that] disturbs a person’s sleep patterns”.[ii]  These symptoms can disrupt normal brain processes and interfere with sleep patterns, making sleeping and waking at appropriate times more difficult.

For decades, the Drake Institute has used advanced technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with ADHD and other brain-based conditions. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ADHD patients reduce their symptoms and lead better lives.

For more information about how the Drake Institute treats ADHD and several other brain-based conditions, please fill out the consultation form or call us at 800-700-4233.

How ADHD can affect sleep

Do people with ADHD have trouble sleeping?

Science has shown that ADHD is associated with a heightened risk of developing a sleep disorder.[iii] For example, people with ADHD may have difficulty quieting their minds at night, which can make it hard to fall asleep.[iv] Additionally, people with ADHD may be more likely to have irregular sleep schedules, which can disrupt their sleep cycle and make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.[v]

If children and adolescents with ADHD spend excessive screen time in the hours before sleep, it may disturb their sleep.

Some of the most common ways ADHD can affect sleep are:

ADHD medications

Some ADHD medications, particularly stimulants, can interfere with sleep. Stimulants can cause insomnia or worsen existing sleep problems.[vi] At bedtime, the brain can be in an overstimulated state from the residual effects of the stimulants.

Difficulty keeping to a schedule

One reason for ADHD and sleep troubles is difficulty keeping to a regular sleep schedule. The individual with ADHD may be in a hyper-focused state or find it hard to quiet their mind enough to relax. This can disrupt their sleep onset and make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.

Anxiety, depression & other disorders

ADHD often co-occurs with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.[vii] These disorders can negatively impact the quality of sleep.[viii] [ix]

What sleep disorders are associated with ADHD?

Sometimes a true sleep disorder can be misdiagnosed as ADHD, as real sleep disorders can cause symptoms that mimic ADHD.

However, ADHD and sleep problems often do run together, as ADHD can affect sleep in several ways. Though ADHD may lead to sleep problems in some individuals and some professionals may classify ADHD as a sleep disorder, there is no scientific research to support ADHD as a sleep disorder. The research does support the fact that people with ADHD can have very disrupted, lower-quality sleep.

The most common ADHD sleep issues are:


Insomnia is when a person can’t fall asleep or stay asleep consistently. ADHD and insomnia are common co-occurrences.[x]

Circadian rhythm disorders

Researchers believe that one way ADHD may contribute to sleep problems is by impacting the circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle.[xi] When the circadian rhythm is disrupted, it can be difficult to fall asleep at a “normal” bedtime and wake up at the start of the day. Many individuals with ADHD find that they feel more alert in the evening when most people are winding down for the day.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea can impact the quantity and quality of sleep for children and adults. Significantly enlarged tonsils in children can cause sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea can either mimic ADHD symptoms or worsen ADHD symptoms.[xii]

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a condition that causes an irresistible urge to move your legs, especially at night. It can interfere with sleep and make it harder to get a good night’s rest. Restless leg syndrome in children is much more common in children with ADHD.

How to sleep better with ADHD

The best way to improve sleep with ADHD is to treat the underlying brain dysregulation that leads to ADHD. When dysregulation in the brain related to ADHD is improved, symptoms will be minimized or even resolved which will help sleep.

At the Drake Institute, depending on the patient, the first phase of our ADHD treatment is often to improve sleep. Neurofeedback treatment/training can stabilize and improve the sleep system in the brain.

In addition to seeking clinical treatment for ADHD, we recommend some lifestyle changes that can help individuals who are struggling with ADHD and lack of sleep, including:

Adjust your eating and drinking habits

For adults, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. For children and adolescents, certainly avoid caffeine in the evening. These substances can interfere with sleep. Processed foods with artificial colorings and flavorings can disrupt brain functioning, even in non-ADHD individuals. Eating a healthy diet will help the brain function optimally. Avoid eating heavy meals close to bedtime. 

Keep to a sleep schedule

Sticking to a schedule is challenging for individuals with ADHD, but maintaining a sleep schedule and sticking to it will help regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. However, avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as this can make it harder to fall asleep.

Early morning sunlight exposure

Exposure to sunlight in the early morning can help regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle. The light signals to the brain that it is daytime and encourages alertness.[xiii]

Practice “winding down” before bed

Create a relaxing bedtime routine that will help you wind down before bed. This may include taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music.

Reduce screen time

The blue light emitted from electronic devices can interfere with sleep. Avoiding electronic devices for at least an hour before bed allows you to adjust to the sleep phase of the wake-sleep cycle more readily.[xiv]

How the Drake Institute treats ADHD

Over the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has clinically pioneered the use of advanced treatment technologies to treat a variety of brain-based medical disorders such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, and more. Using a combination of brain map-guided neurofeedback and sometimes neurostimulation, our Medical Director creates customized treatment protocols to address each patient's needs.

Brain Mapping

To develop our individualized treatment plans, we first complete a qEEG brain map analysis for each patient. Brain mapping helps us identify which specific regions or networks of the brain are dysregulated and linked to symptoms.

To collect this data, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp in areas of the brain responsible for language, focus, memory, executive functioning, social/emotional understanding, and behavioral/emotional regulation. The 19 sensors measure and record brainwave activity that is processed through a normative database of neurotypical individuals.

When we compare the patient's results with those of neurotypical individuals, we can identify regions or networks of the brain that are dysregulated and causing symptoms. This information also allows us to determine how these areas are dysregulated so that we can develop specific treatment protocols that help improve brain functioning and reduce symptoms.


During neurofeedback training/treatment, sensors are once again placed on the scalp. The sensors record and display instantaneous brainwave activity visually in real-time on a computer screen with simultaneous auditory feedback as well.

During neurofeedback sessions, the patient is seeing the results of how their brain is working and with this information, they learn to improve their brainwave activity by guiding it toward healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave patterns.

We do not administer any drugs or perform invasive procedures during this process. Instead, the patient is improving their own brain functioning, guided by visual and auditory feedback.


As an adjunct to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

In the last forty years, Drake has helped thousands of patients with various disorders such as autism, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, insomnia, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and hypertension reduce or resolve their symptoms and thereby achieve a better quality of life. Call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form to get started.

















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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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