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Sleep Problem Connection with Adult ADHD

Recent research presented at the 2017 European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Conference (ECNP) in Paris, France, has presented the theory that many of ADHD cases may be in fact an issue associated with a lack of regular circadian sleep. Past data does show that approximately 75% of adults with ADHD also have sleep problem but the medical field has thought that to be a separate problem.

Sleep Problem and Adult ADHD

There is extensive evidence that indicates adults with ADHD also tend to display sleep problems. In a theory presented at this year’s ECNP data was presented that suggests that ADHD and circadian problems (sleep issues) are intertwined in a majority of patients. While all ADHD problems may not be associated with circadian patterns, it does appear to be an important element.

ADHD and Physiological Sleep Phase

Symptoms and behaviors indicating a connection between adult ADHD and circadian or sleep problem rhythm include:

  • Changes in level of sleep hormone melatonin delayed by 1.5 hours from those without diagnosis of ADHD
  • Changes in sleep-related movement patterns are delayed
  • Core body temperatures associated with sleep are delayed which corresponds to the delay of melatonin changes
  • Those with ADHD often have great alertness in the evening (opposite of the general population)
  • Sleep related disorders associated with adult ADHD include restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and delayed sleep phase syndrome
  • Approximately 70% of those diagnosed with adult ADHD show over-sensitivity to light, with many needing to wear sunglasses during the day; this light sensitivity may be associated with a circadian shift.

While a disturbance of the natural sleep or circadian system may be physiologically connected to ADHD, it may also have links to other mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder. Further research will help in the development of alternative or adjunct therapies, such as bright light therapy or use of melatonin in the evening, to be used as part of a comprehensive ADHD treatment plan for those with a sleep problem.

Adult ADHD Treatment Options

Call Dr. Hege for a comprehensive mental health evaluation to determine all adult ADHD treatment options, including medication and adjunct therapies, available for your individual needs.

Insomnia May Be Hiding Depression

The National Institute of Mental Health is evaluating research data on insomnia and depression from major U.S. schools such as Stanford, Duke, the University of Pittsburgh, as well as Ryerson University in Toronto. The research from all schools conclude that while it has been long held belief that depression causes insomnia, insomnia can actually precede and directly contribute to causing depression. The link between depression and insomnia works in both directions, however treating both can make a huge difference in curing both depression and insomnia.

Common Signs of Insomnia with Undiagnosed Depression

Some of the most common signs reported for an insomnia diagnosis include:

  • Fatigue during the daytime with loss of energy
  • Irritability with others
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Feeling like you never get “enough” sleep
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Difficulty going back to sleep after waking up during the night
  • Waking up at all hours of the night
  • Waking up before the alarm clock goes off

Common signs of Major Depression

Some of the most common symptoms of major depression also include signs that point to insomnia:

  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Impaired concentration with complaints of poor memory
  • Insomnia or its reverse hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Problems staying asleep all night

While there is cross-over of symptoms between insomnia and depression it does not mean you have one or both of these two diagnoses. Only an experienced psychiatrist can correctly diagnosis and successfully treat either insomnia, depression, or a combination of the two discovering if it was insomnia that preceded the depression or vise-versa.

Combination Treatment Effective

Depression and insomnia do respond to use of one or a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). While pharmacological and CBT can be used to treat both depression and insomnia, treatment of insomnia or sleep problems are typically an integral component used in the treatment of depression.

Getting Help

Self-diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis and treatment may cause more harm than good, delay proper treatment, and risk developing other physical, medical or mental health issues.

Call Dr. Hege for a confidential day, evening or weekend appointment.