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How to Manage Fatigue With ADHD

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That constant sense of weariness, even after a full night’s rest. It’s not just “being tired”; it’s an encompassing fatigue that seems inexplicable. Life with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often comes with challenges, and the pervasive tiredness many experience isn’t often discussed. Whether it’s the mental exhaustion from trying to focus or the restless nights, it’s essential to understand ADHD fatigue.

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Unpacking the Connection Between ADHD and Fatigue

The characteristics that define ADHD — hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attention challenges — all play a role in the fatigue many people experience. Here’s a closer look at the various factors and how they intersect:

  • Brain fog in ADHD: That clouded, unclear feeling in your mind, often termed “brain fog,” can be a constant companion. It’s like trying to think through a dense mist, making everyday tasks more demanding and, thus, more exhausting.
  • Restlessness and fatigue: The hallmark symptom of ADHD — restlessness, particularly in the form of hyperactivity — can lead to physical fatigue. The continuous need to move, the never-ending train of thoughts, and the struggle to sit still can wear out a person.
  • ADHD, sleep, and fatigue: Sleep is often elusive. With ADHD, falling asleep can be challenging due to racing thoughts or restlessness. Plus, staying asleep might be interrupted by night-time activity, directly impacting sleep quality and leaving you feeling unrested during the day.
  • Impact of ADHD on energy levels: ADHD isn’t just about attention. It can also influence how you regulate energy. Some days, you might feel bursts of energy, while others feel like you’re running on empty.
  • ADHD-related fatigue in adults: While children with ADHD might appear hyperactive, adults often internalize their symptoms. This internal hyperactivity, the constant mental buzzing, can be mentally draining, leading to exhaustion.
  • ADHD medications and fatigue: While medication can be beneficial in managing ADHD symptoms, some might have side effects that contribute to tiredness. It’s essential to discuss these effects with your health care provider.

Understanding this connection is the first step in managing and coping with ADHD-related tiredness.

The Role of Sleep Disturbances in ADHD

When you have ADHD, achieving restful sleep can often feel like an uphill battle. It’s not just about the quantity of sleep but also its quality, which can affect how rested you feel upon waking.

  • ADHD, sleep, and fatigue: ADHD can profoundly affect one’s sleep cycle. Racing thoughts, heightened sensitivity to environmental distractions, or internal restlessness can delay sleep onset, reducing sleep hours.
  • Impact of ADHD on sleep quality: People with ADHD might experience frequent night-time awakenings. This fragmented sleep is less restorative, meaning it may feel like you need more even if you’re clocking in 8 hours a night.
  • ADHD, sleep disorders, and tiredness: Research indicates a higher prevalence of sleep disorders among people with ADHD, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. These conditions compound the sleep challenges, intensifying the feelings of daytime fatigue.
  • Restlessness and night-time fatigue: The innate restlessness or hyperactivity doesn’t switch off at bedtime. Tossing, turning, or getting up multiple times can interrupt the deep sleep phases crucial for physical and mental restoration.

It’s not merely about the difficulty in catching those Zs but about the compromised sleep quality leading to chronic feelings of tiredness. If this sounds like your experience, know you’re not alone, and there are strategies and resources available to improve your sleep quality and, consequently, your energy levels.

ADHD Medications and Fatigue

Medications play a pivotal role in navigating everyday challenges with ADHD. However, delving into the impact of these medications, it’s essential to recognize that, paradoxically, some stimulants prescribed for ADHD can contribute to feelings of tiredness. The intricate effects of ADHD medications on fatigue are twofold.

Firstly, you might feel the natural energy dip as the medication wears off.

Secondly, there might be a subtler, underlying physical fatigue due to ADHD medications, manifesting over time and not always directly linked to dosage timings. Being informed and observant can help you strike a balance in managing both your ADHD symptoms and tiredness.

Strategies for Managing Fatigue With ADHD

Living with ADHD often means navigating a maze of fatigue. Here are some strategies to manage ADHD-related tiredness and rejuvenate your energy levels:

  • Recognize the influence: Understand how ADHD impacts your energy levels. Take note of which parts of the day you feel most drained.
  • Prioritize sleep: A consistent sleep schedule is vital. Ensure you’re getting both quality and duration.
  • Mindful techniques: Embrace meditation or deep breathing to combat mental tiredness.
  • Break it up: Incorporate short, frequent breaks throughout your day to rest and refocus.
  • Open communication: Maintain a dialogue with your health care provider to ensure that your coping strategies align with your unique needs.

Embracing these strategies can be a beacon in the haze of fatigue, illuminating a path toward a more energetic and balanced self.

Expert Insights on ADHD and Fatigue

Insights from these experts not only validate your experiences with ADHD but also offer hope and strategies for managing the fatigue that often accompanies the condition.

Dr. Patricia Quinn, a renowned expert on ADHD in adults, emphasizes the relationship between ADHD and exhaustion. She points out that daytime fatigue in ADHD is not merely a result of poor sleep but is often a byproduct of the continuous mental effort to stay focused and organized throughout the day.

Dr. Russell Barkley has often discussed the impact of ADHD on sleep quality. He highlights that individuals with ADHD frequently live with sleep disturbances, further exacerbating feelings of tiredness.

Regarding ADHD and mental tiredness, Dr. Ned Hallowell, author of several books on ADHD, explains the frequent transitions of thought patterns can lead to a unique kind of cognitive fatigue, which can manifest as what many describe as brain fog in ADHD.

Concerning the effects of medications on fatigue, Dr. Joan Davidson, a clinical psychologist specializing in several related disorders, reminds patients that while medications can be an invaluable tool for managing symptoms, they might also contribute to feelings of fatigue. It’s crucial to work closely with health care providers to find a balance that suits individual needs.

When discussing strategies for coping with ADHD-related tiredness, Dr. Thomas Brown suggests that a structured routine, mindfulness practices, and understanding one’s unique ADHD manifestations can be powerful tools for managing and reducing fatigue.

Personal Experiences

We hope these experiences shared by Mighty contributors help you find some validation. You can always reach out to the community if you are ever in need of support.

“Socializing is something many people need. With me, it gives me instant anxiety even thinking about it because my brain won’t be quiet long enough to let me focus on one thing at a time. It’s an exhausting cycle I’ve been dealing with for as long as I can remember. My ADHD brain —> anxiety —> self-judgment —> clam up and get real awkward —> get scared for the next time I have to talk to someone.” – Lissa A.

“One morning during breakfast, I realized Taylor was staring sadly into oblivion over his cereal with his head in his hands. I asked him what was wrong, expecting a generic, ‘I don’t want to go to school.’ Instead, he explained how tiring it is to be in school all day, how he doesn’t feel like the other kids, and how he feels different. He said, ‘I don’t want to go to school all day. It’s so exhausting.'” – Stephanie M.

“We are constantly bombarded with sensory and thought information — there is nothing in our environment we do not notice and can decide not to pay attention to. As I sit here typing, I am listening to a podcast; I have 24 web tabs open, which present me with a ton of neuroscience research, my cat is scratching itself on the lounge just out of my peripheral vision, four cars and a truck are driving past the front of my house, the woman next door is screaming at her husband because he isn’t wearing the tie she picked out for him (again) and then I am bombarded by the smell of my mother’s chain-smoking throughout the house.

This is only what I can hold in my head long enough to describe.

We are aware of every smell, sight, light fluctuation, background noise, background voice, uncomfortable or pleasant sensation on our skin or tongue. I am overwhelmed 99% of the time.

The best way for me to give you a hold on the impact of this — the amount of mental energy you spend doing a third-year uni exam is the amount of energy I use to navigate most of my daily tasks. If I look tired to you, I am.” – Damian M., Reflex Social Services

Frequently Asked Questions

Is daytime fatigue more common in individuals with ADHD?

Yes, daytime fatigue is a common complaint among people with ADHD, especially if sleep quality is compromised or their symptoms are particularly intense during the day.

How does restlessness in ADHD relate to feelings of fatigue?

Restlessness can be both a cause and a result of fatigue in ADHD. While it might lead to disrupted sleep, it can also be a response to mental tiredness as the body tries to combat feelings of exhaustion.

Is there a difference between physical fatigue due to ADHD and mental tiredness?

Yes. While physical fatigue relates to bodily exhaustion, mental tiredness pertains to cognitive functions like concentration and decision-making. ADHD can lead to both types, though mental tiredness is often more commonly reported.

Do children with ADHD also experience the same levels of ADHD tiredness as adults?

While children with ADHD do experience fatigue, the intensity and manifestations might differ. Factors like school schedules, social activities, and medication doses can influence their fatigue levels.

Are there specific effects of ADHD medications on fatigue?

Some ADHD medications can cause tiredness as a side effect, while others might disrupt sleep patterns if taken too late. Discuss any potential side effects with your health care provider.

Key Takeaways

  1. ADHD symptoms can directly and indirectly lead to feelings of both mental and physical tiredness.
  2. People with ADHD often experience sleep disturbances, impacting sleep quality and leading to daytime fatigue.
  3. While ADHD medications are beneficial for managing symptoms, they can sometimes contribute to feelings of fatigue. Working closely with health care providers to strike a balance is essential.
  4. Simple routines, like regular breaks, adequate hydration, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and mindfulness practices, can help in managing ADHD-related tiredness.
  5. It’s always a good idea to stay updated with insights from mental health experts specializing in ADHD for tailored strategies and understanding.

Living with ADHD and its accompanying fatigue can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. But, with understanding, a proactive approach, and tailored strategies, managing this fatigue becomes achievable. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey.

Stay Mighty!

Getty image by invincible_bulldog

Originally published: October 27, 2023
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