Adderall is a brand-name prescription drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Due to its stimulating qualities, there is a possibility it could have a negative impact on sleep, particularly when abused.
Adderall is a stimulant — a combination of the two stimulant drugs amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960, Adderall and generic versions of the drug are prescribed for their expected calming effect on people with ADHD, which is believed to improve focus and concentration.
While Adderall is generally considered an effective treatment for many people who have ADHD, it also has many side effects and can become habit-forming. Some of the more common adverse symptoms of Adderall use include nervousness, decreased appetite, and stomach issues.
Many are unsure about one potential side effect of Adderall: its effect on sleep.
Some assume since Adderall is a stimulant, it could keep users awake and/or affect their sleep cycle.
But does it affect a user’s sleep quality? And does it have these effects on people with ADHD, even though it is supposed to have a relaxing effect on those with the disorder?
Understanding how Adderall works and its effects on sleep can help users, and their loved ones prepare for any changes in sleep the drug could cause. Preparation can ensure they’re still getting enough quality sleep to remain healthy and rested.
Adderall is classified as a central nervous system stimulant. It works by affecting neurotransmitters — chemical substances that send signals between nerve cells — in the brain.
Adderall acts mainly by affecting two neurotransmitters: norepinephrine, which acts as both a stress hormone and a neurotransmitter and dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is largely responsible for reward and motivational behavior patterns.
Adderall increases the availability of these neurotransmitters in the central nervous systems connections, thereby increasing brain activity.
Ready to get Help?
We’re here 24/7. Pick up the phone.
Adderall, as a stimulant, primarily affects the release and reuptake of dopamine. This neurotransmitter is closely tied to reward, excitement, alertness, and pleasure.
When dopamine is firing in your nervous system, you will feel alert, awake, and focused. You may even feel like you are having more creative and productive thoughts. This makes it useful in treating disorders that make focusing on tasks difficult.
Attention disorders are often caused by a lack of dopamine in your system, causing your mind to wander to new avenues for reward. When a task is boring, you start to crave stimulus, so your mind is easily distracted.
The relationship between sleep and Adderall is a complicated one, and there is still ongoing research being conducted to discover the effect the drug has on sleep.
One confusing aspect of this research relates to the nature of ADHD itself. Symptoms of ADHD include feelings of restlessness, high energy, and difficulty dealing with stress.
If an individual with ADHD is prescribed Adderall, and struggles with insomnia or other sleep issues, there is a question if this sleep problem is a symptom of ADHD, or a result of taking a stimulant such as Adderall.
Sleeplessness and ADHD also have similar symptoms, including mood swings, difficulty focusing, and hyperactivity. As a result, there is a risk of ADHD being misdiagnosed as a sleep disorder, and vice versa.
A lack of sleep is likely to worsen ADHD symptoms such as a lack of concentration. If these symptoms are treated with higher doses of Adderall, instead of addressing the sleep issue, the problems could become worse.
While research is ongoing, and there are limited clear answers available, completed research suggests a connection between Adderall (and ADHD) and reduced sleep as well as reduced sleep quality.
Adderall is very physically and psychologically addictive, and withdrawal from the substance can affect sleep.
After an Adderall binge or continued use, a user may experience a crash. After one to three days, withdrawal effects may include fatigue, feelings of depression, excessive sleep, and an increased desire to sleep. However, the sleep attained may be of lesser quality, and the individual may experience vivid and unpleasant dreams.
Continued withdrawal symptoms (lasting seven to 10 days after using) may include mood swings, paranoia, and insomnia. Vivid and unpleasant dreams may persist, as well.
Though Adderall is a relatively safe prescription medication that’s used to treat a common disorder, it can be dangerous when abused.
Plus, addiction is a problem that typically gets worse if it isn’t addressed early.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder related to Adderall or another prescription stimulant, it’s important to address the issue as soon as you can.
Since addiction is progressive, addressing it early can help you avoid the worst consequences that are associated with addiction, like long-term health problems. Still, addiction is treatable at any stage, even if it’s already significantly impacted your life.
Learn more about Adderall addiction and how it can be effectively treated. Start your road to recovery as soon as possible. Learn more about Adderall addiction and how it can be effectively treated.
(April 2014) What is Adderall (Adderall XR)? Everyday Health. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/adderall
(July 2016) Adderall vs. Ritalin: What’s the Difference? Susan York Morris. Healthline. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/adderall-vs-ritalin#adderall-vs-ritalin
(January 2018) Can Adderall Cause Sleep Issues in Teens with ADHD? Keath Low. Verywell Mind. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.verywellmind.com/adhd-adderall-and-sleep-20697
Cherry, K. (2019, July 17). The Role of Neurotransmitters. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-neurotransmitter-2795394
(November 2018) The Relationship Between ADHD and Sleep. Michael J. Breus Ph.D. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201811/the-relationship-between-ad hd-and-sleep
(January 2017) Sleep and Circadian Rhythmicity in Adult ADHD and the Effect of Stimulants. Journal of Attention Disorders. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23509113
(December 2015) Stimulant Medications and Sleep for Youth With ADHD: A Meta-Analysis. Katherine M. Kidwell, et al. Pediatrics Journal. Retrieved March 2019 from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/6/1144
(November 2015) ADHD Meds May Cause Sleep Problems in Kids. Marley Hall and Ashley Welch. CBS News. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/adhd-meds-may-cause-sleep-problems-in-kids/
(April 2018) Coping with an Adderall Crash. Rachel Nall R.N. Medical News Today. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321492.php