ADHD Treatment: Sleep Better With Stimulants

by Paul Ballas, D.O. Health Professional

For people who are taking stimulants to treat ADHD, insomnia is a real concern.
The medications aren't called "stimulants" accidentally.
They do have a powerful ability to arouse a person who is feeling extremely sleepy, and used incorrectly, can cause problems going to sleep at night.
It's one of the most common side effects patients tell me; the medication helps their ADHD, but keeps them up too late at night.

If this situation describes you, please tell your doctor, because there are many ways treatment of ADHD can be changed to prevent this side effect from occurring, including switching to a once-a-day medication that is taken early in the morning.

However, some people are so concerned about this side effect they won't try the medication at all.
A recently published study in the journal Sleep found that adults with ADHD can have improved sleep when taking stimulant medication.
The findings of this study may not come as a surprise to people who have been successfully treated for ADHD.
Here's what the findings of this study by authors Sobanski, Schredl, et al suggest:

  1. People with ADHD who are not treated appear to have less sleep efficiency (the proportion of time in bed to the time actually asleep), less REM sleep, and more nighttime awakenings.

  2. Participants in this study, when treated with methylphenidate had overall better sleep efficiency and told investigators their sleep was more restorative.

This adds to existing body of research that suggests people with ADHD have impaired sleep, and when they are treated, even with stimulants known to cause insomnia in some people, often their sleep gets better.

These findings aren't surprising to me.
People with psychiatric disorders overall tend to have worse sleep.
The quality of a person's sleep can sometimes be a barometer for how well managed their illness is.
I welcome your comments and experiences with sleep disturbances, especially if treatment with stimulant medication has affected it, for better or worse.

Paul Ballas, D.O.
Meet Our Writer
Paul Ballas, D.O.

Paul Ballas, D.O., wrote about mental health for HealthCentral. He is a member of the American Psychiatric Association and has been a presenter at the American Psychiatric Association and American Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine meetings.