How To Switch Off Your ADHD Brain For Better Sleep

Restful Brain
5 min read

Do you ever lie awake in bed, feeling exhausted but wide awake?

Your mind races with a million thoughts, replaying the day’s events or planning for tomorrow.

If you have ADHD, this scenario is probably all too familiar. Studies show a strong link between ADHD and sleep difficulties.

The jury is out as to what causes ADHD and poor sleep.

Since impulse control can be a challenge with ADHD, settling down for bed might be difficult. This may lead to bedtime resistance or even delayed sleep onset.

Or you might naturally prefer staying up later and your body might produce melatonin (the sleep hormone) later at night.

However, poor sleep can also exacerbate ADHD symptoms, making it harder to focus, regulate emotions, and manage impulsivity.

The good news is, you’re not powerless against this sleep struggle.

By implementing healthy sleep hygiene practices and incorporating calming techniques specifically designed for an overactive ADHD brain, you can finally achieve the restful sleep you deserve.

Just remember, if your sleep problems are severe or persist despite trying these strategies, it’s crucial to consult a doctor to rule out any co-occuring medical conditions.

The Complex Connection Between ADHD and Sleep

Woman with black hair wearing an orange sweater lying on a white bed with her hands over her eyes

The exact reasons why ADHD and sleep problems occur together so frequently are still being studied. However, researchers have identified several potential links:

Brain Activity Differences

Studies suggest that during sleep, people with ADHD exhibit distinct brain wave patterns compared to those without the condition. These differences might affect the ability to fall asleep smoothly, transition between sleep stages, and achieve deep, restorative sleep.

Neurotransmitter Imbalance

Both ADHD and sleep regulation rely heavily on specific neurotransmitters, like dopamine and norepinephrine. In people with ADHD, these chemicals might be imbalanced, leading to difficulties with focus, impulsivity, and sleep initiation. Medications used to treat ADHD often target these neurotransmitters, and their effects can sometimes disrupt sleep patterns in some people.

Sleep Disorders

People with ADHD are more likely to experience co-occurring sleep disorders like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea. These conditions further disrupt sleep quality and exacerbate ADHD symptoms during the day. Insomnia, for example, can make it harder to concentrate, manage emotions, and control impulses – core challenges for people with ADHD.

Circadian Rhythm Disruption

Our bodies have a natural internal clock called the circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep-wake cycles. Exposure to sunlight helps synchronise this rhythm. However, some research suggests people with ADHD might have a naturally delayed circadian rhythm, making them feel more alert later in the evening and struggle to fall asleep at a typical bedtime.

So it’s complicated! Many things can affect sleep in people with ADHD, like brain activity, chemicals in the brain, sleep disorders, and even your natural sleep-wake cycle.

But by understanding these different pieces, you can find ways to improve your habits and routines for better sleep.

Daytime Activities For Better Sleep With ADHD

Dirt path through a grassy field overlooking the ocean with a park bench in the middle

A good night’s sleep starts during the day. Here are 3 things you can do during the daytime to prepare your brain and body for better sleep:

  1. Prioritise a Consistent Wake-up Time

    Waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends, helps regulate your circadian rhythm. This is your internal clock that dictates sleepiness and alertness.

    A consistent wake-up time signals to your body when to expect sleepiness in the evening, promoting deeper, more restorative sleep and making it easier to fall asleep at night.

    This consistency may also reduce daytime fatigue, and improve focus and energy levels throughout the day.

  2. Embrace Consistent Light Exposure

    Aim for regular exposure to natural sunlight during the daytime. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at consistent times.

    Go for a brisk walk outdoors in the morning, have lunch on a sunny patio, or simply open your curtains to let natural light into your workspace.

  3. Channel Energy Through Movement

    Regular physical activity is crucial for overall well-being and can significantly improve sleep quality for people with ADHD. However, timing is key.

    Aim for moderate-intensity exercise earlier in the day (at least 3-4 hours before bedtime) to release energy and promote relaxation in the evening. Avoid strenuous activities close to bedtime, as they can be too stimulating.

Pre-Bedtime Activities For Better Sleep With ADHD

Black woman rests in a bubble bath with her eyes closed

Before you head off to bed it’s important to transition properly. Here are 3 things you can do before bed to wind down and get ready for restful sleep:

  1. Set a Bedtime Alarm

    This type of alarm acts as a gentle reminder to start winding down for sleep. It’s not time to go to bed yet though. You set the alarm 30-60 minutes before your desired bedtime.

  2. Create a Pre-Sleep Ritual 

    Develop a restful bedtime routine specifically for winding down before bed.

    This could include taking a warm bath, journaling your thoughts, or reading a few pages of a book. The more often you do your bedtime ritual the more your body will learn to associate these activities with sleep.

  3. Dim the Lights 

    Dim the lights in your bedroom at least an hour before bed. This helps regulate melatonin production and promotes sleepiness.

    You can also set your phone screen to red light at night to block overstimulating blue light.

In-Bed Activities For Better Sleep With ADHD

Woman lying in bed with hands under pillow, eyes closed wearing headphones

Now that it’s bedtime, here are 3 things you can do to help switch off your busy ADHD brain and actually fall asleep:

  1. Listen to meditones®

    Meditones combine ambient music with binaural beats for effortless relaxation. When listened to with headphones, they create brainwaves similar to those in meditation or restful sleep. Helping you fall asleep quicker and easier, without any effort.

  2. Daydream Your Way to Sleep

    Daydreaming can be a calming and enjoyable way to drift off to sleep. You simply let your mind wander to create stories or scenarios. This helps your mind disengage from worries and anxieties. Just remember to focus on cosy and restful stories so your daydreams aren’t too exciting.

    Alternatively, you could try to name a fruit or vegetable for every letter of the alphabet. It helps engage your mind which may already be racing with thoughts. But it’s boring enough to soothe yourself to sleep.

  3. Breathwork 

    Deep breathing exercises can signal to your body it’s time to wind down. Try simply extending your exhale. Inhale for two seconds and then exhale for four seconds. Repeat this cycle for as long as you need to feel yourself relax.


Conquering sleep struggles with ADHD requires a two-pronged approach: establishing healthy daytime habits and incorporating calming bedtime routines.

A good night’s sleep is the foundation for managing ADHD symptoms and living a fulfilling life. So, give these strategies a go and find what works best for you.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey! If you find these strategies aren’t enough, consult a doctor or sleep specialist to explore additional options and rule out any co-occurring conditions.

Discover a growing library of meditones for better sleep with the Restful app. Download for free today on Google Play or the App Store.