Does Food Flare ADHD Sleep Problems?

by | Nov 21, 2019 | ADHD Symptom Control | 0 comments

Do you find yourself waking up in the wee hours of the night unable to fall back to sleep? If you do, that isn’t good if you want to focus and function the next day. Do you know that food can flare ADHD sleep problems?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you know how important sleep is for managing ADHD. Without enough shut-eye, your ADHD symptoms will be worse. 

Exhaustion will make you even more scattered, distracted, impulsive, and emotional.

I suspect ADHD plays a role in staying asleep – we are so sensitive during daylight hours. Why wouldn’t our sensitivity be with us at night? Sounds, lights, heat, etc.

The most talked-about ADHD sleep problems are getting to bed and falling asleep. Of course, address those bad boys. But, if you tend to awake in the middle of the night you must dig deeper.

Look at how to stay asleep, as well. Ignore the stay asleep part and you’re getting only half the picture.

One thing I do know, for instance, is how some drinks and foods make it harder to stay asleep. For everyone. Not just ADHD adults.

So, what can we do to boost our chances of getting a full night’s sleep?

What Causes ADHD Sleep Problems?

If you’re one to lie awake in the middle of the night your diet may be part of the problem. These foods and drinks can disrupt sleep:

  • Dark Chocolate – I hate to break the news, but that hunk of dark chocolate may be what keeps you staring at the ceiling at 2 AM. Same with that yummy chocolate dessert. Chocolate carries a punch of caffeine. Plus other stimulants that increase heart rate and disrupt sleep. I’m not saying don’t have chocolate. Just don’t have the dark stuff in the evening if you notice it keeps you awake. Milk chocolate has less caffeine than dark chocolate.
  • Coffee, Tea, and Soda – ADHD adults tend to drink lots of coffee, soda, and tea. It’s an attempt at self-medicating attention deficit. If you’re having trouble staying asleep avoid caffeine ladened drinks in the afternoon. I can tell you this has made a huge difference in my ability to sleep.
  • Alcohol – That nightcap may help you fall asleep but it’s not your friend in the middle of the night. Studies show that alcohol a few hours before bedtime can make you wake up during the second half of sleep. My one rat studies show I sleep fine with one glass of wine. Add a second glass and I’m destined to lie awake in the middle of the night.
  • MSG – This is a sneaky one. Some sleep experts suggest foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate) disrupt sleep. MSG is a food enhancer often used in Asian and processed food. I find a direct link between MSG and sleeplessness. Go out for Chinese and I’m awake around 2 AM for a couple of hours. Not fun!

Here’s the deal. I’m not suggesting you never have chocolate, coffee, wine, or Teriyaki chicken. Food is a lovely part of a rich, interesting life. Plus, small amounts of dark chocolate and wine are good for you!  

I do want you to experiment to see how much you can have without disrupting your sleep. Do that one rat study. Next time you’re lying awake in the middle of the night think back to earlier in the day. What did you eat or drink that could keep you from staying asleep? After all, food can flare ADHD sleep problems.


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