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Melatonin & ADHD: What's the Deal?

Discover why the little-known link between ADHD and melatonin is vital for sleep health.

A woman yawning in her bed at night


This one is for you, my fellow Night Owls.


By now you may know that ADHD can mess with your sleep cycle. The reason for this involves many things, but a fairly recent study indicates a relationship between having an ADHD brain and melatonin production.

 

So what's melatonin?


Melatonin is like the sleepy-time conductor in your brain. It's produced by the pineal gland and helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. However, for people with ADHD, melatonin production is delayed by about 1.5 hours. This can make it tough to catch some z's at night, which can make ADHD symptoms worse during the day.

How does ADHD affect melatonin & sleep?

Now, I know this all sounds a bit sci-fi, but there's actual research to back it up. Peer-reviewed research. A study by the University of Texas found that melatonin production was delayed in kids with ADHD compared to those without. They measured melatonin levels in saliva and found that levels were lower and delayed in kids with ADHD. The delay was about 1. 5 hours, but could go up to 2 or 3.


So, what's causing this delay? Well, it's all about the circadian rhythm. That's your body's internal clock that tells you when to sleep and when to wake up. It's controlled by a bunch of things, like light exposure, physical activity, and temperature. The delay in melatonin production in people with ADHD may be due to differences in the regulation of the circadian rhythm. Other studies also suggest that low dopamine levels can delay melatonin production. ADHD = lower dopamine levels. This may be why the melatonin levels for the ADHD children were so low.


The delay in melatonin production in people with ADHD may contribute to the sleep problems commonly associated with the disorder. ADHDers often struggle with insomnia and/or trouble waking up in the morning. What makes it even more frustrating is that consistent low-quality sleep contributes to an increase in ADHD symptoms. This link is a big deal, and we need more research to figure out exactly what's going on. But in the meantime, if you have ADHD and trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. They might be able to suggest some melatonin supplements or other interventions to help you get the rest you need. Be on the lookout for my next blog posts that will give you suggestions on how to encourage the production of melatonin.

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