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Sleep Issues and ADHD

Chronic Insomnia: ADD or substance abuse?

My son is 23. Has a history of substance abuse. Has been clean over a year. But struggles with chronic insomnia, severe at times, like now. I’ve had him see a counselor who believes he shows signs of ADD. He has classic behaviors. Thinks he might have PTSD and possibly Executive Dysfunction of some sort. We have seen an MD. The first prescribed amitriptylene, but my son didn’t like how it made him feel. He is now trying trazadone. Took 3 last night. Will see how he does. He referred him to a pulmonologist for sleep eval. In network. We can’t get in before 9/30. My son doesn’t believe ADD is legitimate diagnosis. Thinks his insomnia is caused by the former drug abuse. But now he is so sleep deprived and desperate, hes willing to talk to anyone. I’m trying to get in with a local psychiatrist who treats substance abuse and ADHD. But can’t get in for several weeks. Also in network. I need advice, recommendations, referral, anything would be appreciated. At what point can I take him to the emergency room? And would they do anything to help him sleep? I’ve never seen him as distraught as he was last night. It really concerns me.


Hi Dadd,
I’m sorry your son feels the way he does.  Please tell him ADD/ADHD is a very real diagnosis. In fact, ADHD could be what is causing all of his issues, including the drug abuse.  I have three sons who all have ADHD in different ways.  My oldest, who is almost 22, is the most similar to your son.  He has struggled with sleep issues for years.  He’s also abused alcohol and marijuana.  We finally got him to a psychiatrist and he’s been taking Vyvance with an Adderall booster in the evenings, Cymbalta for depression, and Depakote to settle his mind so he can sleep.  He has also started meditating and that’s helped a lot.  Do a google search for mindful meditation.  He’s also started downloading books from Audible that interest him.  They have all kinds of books. He’s currently listening to The Zen of Golf.  I know the cycle your son can get in not sleeping, stressing about not sleeping, so not sleeping some more.  That will get better.  I find it helps to not be scared of the problem.  Acknowledge it for what it is. Say, “I can’t sleep now, but I will later.  I have a fixable problem.”  Sometimes when my son can’t sleep he drinks Sleepytime Extra tea.  That helps relax him.  He has also started painting.  He’s never had art classes, but he had the urge to paint so we got some canvases, brushes, and paints and that helps him focus his mind on something else.  Tell him not to give up.  Believe that ADHD is really a condition and it is very treatable.

Posted by mama36_13 on Aug 01, 2014 at 3:34am

Quality sleep and quality of life are intimate partners. Please tell your son he’s doing the right thing by going in for a sleep eval, and that in the meantime there is more he can do for himself.

I’m a 51 year old male who wasn’t diagnosed ADD until about 5 years ago, but have had sleep and depression issues since childhood, and went through a period of drug abuse as a teen. So I’m an old guy who can relate.

When I finally got around to doing a sleep eval in my late 30s I found out I also had sleep apnea. So for the past dozen years I’ve used a CPAP machine and taken a nightly 50 mg dose of trazadone and a melatonin tab. That’s a recipe that has worked very well for me. Took me years to take the “sleep hygiene” concept seriously, but it is very serious for both physical and mental health.

Ditto mama36_13’s comments about meditation and mindfulness. Stressing about not sleeping creates a vicious cycle. Meditation, progressive relaxation, mindful breathing can break that cycle. Your son might have heightened sensitivity to light and sound. When I was his age I needed complete darkness and complete silence, and used earplugs and a black sleep mask to cover my eyes.

Posted by HR3 on Aug 01, 2014 at 5:10am

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