ADHD and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

While ADHD is widely recognized as a cause of sleep disturbance, another sleep-related condition is not and often co-occurs with ADHD. It is Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). Below, we delve into the nature, causes, symptoms, and impacts of delayed sleep syndrome on individuals with ADHD, and explore recommended treatments.

Nature and Causes of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS):

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder characterized by a persistent delay in the timing of the major sleep episode in relation to the desired or conventional sleep time. Individuals with DSPS typically have difficulty falling asleep and waking up at socially acceptable times, leading to sleep deprivation and various associated issues.

The causes of DSPS in individuals with ADHD can include a combination of factors:

  • Neurobiological Factors Both ADHD and DSPS have neurobiological underpinnings. Imbalances in neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which plays a crucial role in both conditions, may contribute to the co-occurrence of ADHD and DSPS.
  • Genetic Predisposition Genetic factors may contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to both ADHD and DSPS. Research suggests a familial link between the two conditions, indicating a shared genetic basis.

Symptoms and Impacts of DSPS in Individuals with ADHD

Symptoms of DSPS usually include:

  • Sleep Onset Difficulties Individuals with ADHD and DSPS often struggle to initiate sleep at conventional bedtime hours, leading to delayed sleep onset.
  • Difficulty Waking Up Waking up in the morning can be particularly challenging for those with DSPS, exacerbating the morning difficulties often experienced by individuals with ADHD.
  • Daytime Sleepiness and Impaired Functioning Sleep deprivation resulting from delayed sleep can intensify the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of ADHD, such as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Co-occurring ADHD and DSPS can impact every aspect of life.

  • Academic and Occupational Challenges: The combination of ADHD and DSPS can significantly impair academic and occupational performance due to difficulties in concentration and sustained attention.
  • Social and Emotional Consequences Persistent sleep issues can contribute to mood disorders and exacerbate emotional dysregulation, already common in individuals with ADHD.


The most common treatments used for DSPS are:

  • Circadian Rhythm Regulation Implementing strict sleep schedules and maintaining consistent sleep-wake times can help regulate circadian rhythms.
  • Light Therapy Exposure to bright light in the morning can help reset the circadian clock, promoting earlier sleep onset.
  • Medication In some cases, medications like melatonin or certain ADHD medications may be prescribed to address sleep-related difficulties.
  • Behavioral Interventions Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can be beneficial in addressing maladaptive sleep patterns and improving sleep hygiene.

Recognizing the complex interplay between ADHD and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is crucial for developing effective interventions. By understanding the nature, causes, and symptoms of DSPS in individuals with ADHD, individuals can pave the way for targeted treatments that address both conditions, ultimately improving the quality of life for those facing these challenges.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing these issues, consulting with a healthcare professional is essential for a comprehensive assessment and personalized treatment plan.



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